Dirty Little Secret About O’Hare International Airport’s Diagonal Runway Closures — Life or Death Safety


The families on Hillside Drive in Bensenville, IL have seen their quality of life profoundly impacted by runway changes at O’Hare Airport. Air traffic once thousands of feet away, is now only hundreds of feet above homes. The families didn’t move in next to a runway, the runway moved in next to them.

There are three major reasons O’Hare International Airport should not close their diagonal runways. One reason is related to noise, health and quality of life; two reasons are related to saving lives.

New landing and takeoff patterns that took effect October 17, 2013 at O’Hare drastically increased air traffic over both North and Northwest Chicago neighborhoods and the near northwest suburbs by shifting airplane traffic that formerly arrived and departed from many directions, into landings and takeoffs primarily from two directions: East and West directly over densely-populated residential areas.

Much of the deleted air traffic patterns involved arrivals and departures over commercial and industrial properties (compatible land) that took the noise away from residential properties.

FAir Allocation in Runways — A Coalition of Community Organizations Dedicated to the Equitable Distribution of O’Hare and Midway Traffic — seeks to keep the diagonal runaways open to rotate traffic patterns away from constant east-west patterns over residential properties.

The best practice for takeoffs and landings is to takeoff and land into the wind. Flight into the wind — even obliquely into the wind — provides the most stable lift of air under the wings for flight. Crosswinds can cause unexpected changes in lift that can cause an aircraft to suddenly change altitude up or down or can cause roll of the wings. When an airport places all runways in one direction, aircraft are forced to takeoff and land in crosswinds on days when winds blow perpendicular to the single runway directions. At O’Hare, all the major runways are planned to have an East-West configuration. Unfortunately, especially during winter storms, O’Hare experiences strong north-northwest winds, north winds, and north-northeast winds for prolonged periods. Aircraft that land in crosswinds are at higher risk of accidents due to the limited runway configuration. Recently, aircraft at O’Hare’s have experienced a high number of runway or takeoff/landing incidents.

Strangely, nothing has been reported about this increase crosswind risk to aircraft. In fact, some pilots and “experts” off the record have even denied the risk of crosswinds. However, aircraft manufacturer Airbus makes recommendations in their aircraft Flight Operations manuals that warns about adverse wind conditions and the risk of approach-and-landing accidents. The aircraft manufacturer even recommends a maximum wind velocity limit for landing, and discusses the variety of runway conditions (slush cover, dry snow cover, wet snow cover, and standing water or wet pavement) that affect the risk of hydroplaning.

O’Hare International Airport is a world class airport that serves a world class city — Chicago and its suburbs. Airport closures could prevent delivery of human organs for emergency transplants, or prevent sick patients from arriving for transfer to a major Chicago hospital. Closures on extremely windy days are more likely with uni-directional runways. There is more chance the airport may have to temporarily close when the diagonal runways don’t exist. Crosswind weather conditions may cause restrictions on all aircraft, which would prohibit landing on the east-west runways, on days when landings and takeoffs would have been permissible on the diagonal runways. The inability to provide the timely delivery of a human organ for a transplant at a Chicago hospital because of a closed airport could be the difference between life and death.

Higher Number of Aircraft Incidents with New Runway Configuration (It’s not JUST the weather, it’s also the runway configuration)

March 1, 2016 Aircraft slid off runway
Strong north winds on the day this aircraft slid off the runway at O’Hare on March 1, 2016. There was also a report of a second incident that was not photographed.

Strong North Winds
ChicagoWeatherStation.com March 1 2016

February 19, 2016 Multiple aircraft aborted landings

ChicagoWeatherStation.com Friday, February 19, 2016

A strong south wind (crosswind) gets under the wings of an inbound aircraft landing on an east-west runway and pushes it north off alignment with the runway on February 19, 2016. Taxi Driver of Chicago: Plane Landing at O’Hare Aborting Landing Due to High Winds (taken from taxi staging area east of the airport).

January 22, 2016 United Airlines Jet Misses Turn to Taxiway at End of Runway

North Winds
ChicagoWeatherStation.com Friday, January 22, 2016

A United Airlines Boeing 737 slid off the end of the runway on Wednesday, December 30, 2016, but that incident did not appear to be related to crosswinds. The aircraft landed into a west wind but continued beyond the end of the runway

Sure, some airports can get by with all parallel runways, but those airports don’t have the prolonged winter storms with strong north winds that Chicago has, and might not require the uptime and reliability that is required at World Class Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The availability of runways in multiple directions provides a better noise solution, and provides the safest landing and takeoff operations with respect to multiple wind directions.

See also …

The Cardinal As O’Hare International Airport Moves To Parallel East-West Runways, Will Increased Crosswind Landings and Takeoffs Make Airport More Dangerous?

Daily Mail Special delivery! FedEx steps in to fly baby and her parents to Chicago for life-saving liver transplant during blizzard conditions that caused more than 1,100 canceled flights

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