O’Hare opens new runway to ease congestion

by Stephanus Surjaputra on November 10, 2008

Chicago is set to open a new runway which will hopefully ease congestion by allowing more takeoffs and landings and improve on-time performance. Analysts and airlines are not sure about the effects of the new runway at O’Hare International Airport, a hub for both United and American Airlines.

Added to the complexities of the new runway effects is the rapidly shrinking network of both United and American. Both airlines have announced capacity cuts in the range of 20 percent that would have reduced traffic at Chicago O’Hare with or without a new runway.

US Transportation Secretary, Mary Peters, claims that much of Chicago’s traffic problems emanate from delays rolling over from the crowded New York airspace.

American Airlines vice president of operations planning says that even with the new runway, the infrastructure will still be under pressure. With O’Hare’s additional runway, he says, the airport will be at 93% capacity. But with the caps set to expire, you can’t tell what will happen to demand.

Experts say that unlike New York airports, which suffer from congested airspace, delays at O’Hare are on the ground. The new runway will be able to address that issue. United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy says that there will be a “significant improvement in operational performance.” at O’Hare.

FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro says the new runway “represents an incremental step in the planned O’Hare expansion.” At 7,500 feet in length, it will allow an additional four or five hourly arrivals and reduce delays by 4 percent to 5 percent, but Molinaro concedes that ‘”we never said this was a major runway.”‘

As an example, a Boeing 777-300 requires a landing distance of 6,100 feet in good weather conditions. When the weather is bad, you’ll be cutting it close, so the larger jetliners won’t be able to use the new runway.

Two more runways are planned for the future, though funding has yet to be secured. They expect those runways to reduce delays by 30 percent.

Consultant Mike Boyd says that the new runway will help but the problem is the antiquated air traffic control system. He says that “O’Hare runways could make a difference, but the real problem is getting airplanes to and from those runways.”

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