Report Says Chicago Skies Too Crowded For O'Hare Growth
A new report by a
former FAA official indicates Chicago's plan to expand O'Hare
Airport would turn O'Hare into a "truly frightening airport" due to
congested airspace and other problems. City officials disputed the
new report announced by Sen. Peter G. Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) on
In the report, which was commissioned by expansion opponents,
Fitzgerald said it indicates the danger, disruption, and air and
land congestion the expansion would cause is not worth the minimum
400,000 new landings it would add to the world's busiest airport.
He also charged that a new analysis by Joseph Del Balzo of JDA
Aviation Technology indicates the city ignored the expansion's
impact on airspace congestion, and used other flawed assumptions in
crafting its O'Hare Modernization Program. The new report was
commissioned by the mayors of Bensenville and Elk Grove
"Chicago's airspace is already the most congested in the nation.
The city's consultants simply ignored this," Fitzgerald said at a
news conference Monday. "It's possible to add more runways but you
can't add more airspace."
Del Balzo's report
charged that the city did not consider flights from Midway,
Milwaukee, DuPage County and other surrounding airports that
overlap the air routes of planes from O'Hare, already the
worst-delayed airport in the nation. It called this a "glaring
deficiency." At Monday's news conference, Del Balzo said the city's
plan would turn the skies above O'Hare into "an accident waiting to
Two other FAA officials, David Hinton and Jonathan Howe, were so
troubled by Del Balzo's report that they have volunteered their own
time to guide further analysis, Del Balzo said. However, Rosemarie
Andolino, executive director of the O'Hare Modernization Plan, said
airspace comments by the FAA cited in Del Balzo's report were made
in response to the city's original plan. That plan has since been
revised and has not triggered any FAA concerns about air
congestion, Andolino said.
The city has run every simulation requested by the FAA and "Our
plan took into account FAA industry standards," Andolino said. "I'm
confident they know how to operate an airport effectively and would
give us the correct modeling."
Del Balzo's report also
charged that the city overestimated the percent of excellent
weather conditions under which pilots and air traffic controllers
normally operate at O'Hare. It said the city assumed that planes
would hold 13 more passengers per plane than they currently
average, and ignored increased taxiing time of three minutes per
plane that the new runway configuration would cause.
Fitzgerald said several roadways -- the Kennedy Expy., the
Northwest Tollway -- and O'Hare Airport terminals would have to be
expanded to handle the new passengers filing into O'Hare, raising
the total bill to $15 billion to add "a puny 400,000 more
passengers" a year to O'Hare. Any road changes required by the plan
must be addressed by the state, not the city, Andolino said. But
the runway upgrades are necessary to enhance O'Hare's efficiency
and maintain its standing as an economic engine for the Chicago
area, she said.
"If we had a modern airfield, we wouldn't have the problems we
have today," Andolino said.