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New runway or fewer flights cut O'Hare delays?

Thumbnail image for ohare tower.jpg

The new tower that Chicago had to build at O'Hare Airport because controllers couldn't see enough of the new northern runway from the old tower.

The Federal Aviation Administration says flight delays at O'Hare Airport have declinedsince the new northern runway was built. Count on Mayor Richard M. Daley's administration to crow about how this proves the wisdom of O'Hare Expansion.

Except, the number of flights at O'Hare also is down, so it's anyone's guess as to which caused the improvement: a new runway or the recession. Not mentioned by anyone is whether the new runway actually has gotten the passengers to their gates any quicker. Daley wants you to forget that the northern runway has increased taxiing time and added an element of risk because the taxiing planes need to cross more active runways.

Here's the story from the Tribune's BreakingNews Center:

The debut of runway 9 Left/27 Right, on the north sector of the airport, on Nov. 20, 2008, allows O'Hare air-traffic controllers to use three runways for landings in almost any weather conditions.

Before the Daley administration began construction on the $15 billion O'Hare expansion program to add runways and terminals, the airport was limited to two arrival runways in poor weather.

O'Hare's on-time performance for arrivals was only 66 percent in the first nine months of 2008--putting O'Hare
in 29th place, behind LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty
International Airport, for the worst on-time arrivals among the
nation's 31 largest airports, according to the U.S. Department of
Transportation.

Flight delays ebbed during the same period this year when O'Hare ranked No. 20, with an on-time arrival rate of 80 percent.

But flights at O'Hare
have fallen more than 7 percent since the new north runway -- the first
new airstrip at the airport in more than 40 years -- entered service.

There were 820,468 flights at O'Hare
from December 2007 to October 2008, according to the FAA. Total flights
decreased to 760,135 from December 2008 to October 2009, the FAA said.

"We said the new runway would help a little. It looks like it's helping a little,'' said FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro.

O'Hare's busiest year was 2004, when the airport accommodated approximately 992,000 flights, according to the FAA.

No telling how Molinaro emphasized "helped a little." If "a little" is all they got out of it, someone wasted hundreds of millions of dollars.

Comments

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  • The new runway defenately increases throughput in certain configurations and it is making a differece today given the weather however I suspect the delay reductions have more to do with the traffic decreases. However when the traffic comes back the delays will not go up as much as they might have without the runway.
    The taxi routes used for 27R arrivals do not require crossing any active runways to get to the gate.

  • On September 14, 2009, I flew United from Syracuse to O'Hare, landing on 27R. It took a full hour to taxi around the airport to the arrival gate. And the aircraft crossed multiple runways in the process. Try it some time.

  • Depending on air traffic control's active runway choices, the taxi back to the gate/terminal area could indeed take an arriving aircraft on the new north field runway across in-use concrete. Beg to differ, son.

  • In reply to counterpunch:

    Could, yes but as a matter of typical operations FAA ATC does not cross arriving traffic across active runways. Standard Routeing is Taxiway C - P - E - Z - T (behind 9R) then various taxiways depending on gate.

  • In reply to counterpunch:

    Could, yes but as a matter of typical operations FAA ATC does not cross arriving traffic across active runways. Standard Routeing is Taxiway C - P - E - Z - T (behind 9R) then various taxiways depending on gate.

  • In reply to counterpunch:

    Could, yes but as a matter of typical operations FAA ATC does not cross arriving traffic across active runways. Standard Routeing is Taxiway C - P - E - Z - T (behind 9R) then various taxiways depending on gate.

  • I have to differ with "haroldsolomon." The various pathways for planes taxiing from the north runway to the terminals takes them across other runways but only BEHIND any planes on those runways. They are not rolling in front of active traffic.

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