Monday, November 5, 2012

A trip through Chicago O'Hare

In the post that follows I mention Chicago O'hares airport diagram, Bullz Arrival and O'hare departure . Here's a link to all the FAA charts on 


I loathe O'hare. Seriously. Lots of reasons why...I'd type forever to list them all. I will just stick to my top 3.

Reasons why I loathe O'hare airport:

1. At every other airport except O'hare when you clear the runway you WAIT for instructions. At O'hare you keep moving until you hear otherwise, just don't cross a runway

2. When leaving O'hare you first must call "Metering". You then wait as the Outbound ground controller gives you taxi instructions. Sounds easy right? Well on most days the ground guy is talking non-stop. You have to be at the ready. If you missed can't "ask for a read back" as he has moved on to the next guy. You simply wait until he notices you aren't moving and calls you again.

3. It's an odd, and a little unsettling, feeling to takeoff and land as aircraft takeoff and land TOWARD you. More on that in a second.

My trip started with one leg from base (12:20PM departure) to an outstation where my crew had a 2 1/2 hour sit. In a hub we have crew rooms. At out stations we have food courts.

We all hung out in the food court. As luck would have it another crew from a different regional was also enjoying their 3 hour "airport appreciation" time.

We all grew a little tired sitting around. Add in the time change. The next two legs were uneventful.

Then it was off to O'Hare.

Captains leg. It was VFR at O'hare which helps reduce the crazieness. Filed via the Bullz Three RNAV Arrival from Mason City. Chicago was landing to the east on runways 9R,10 and 4R. They were departing 32L, 4L, and 9R.

We were told to expect runway 10.

Approach turned us left and right while descending. Lined up for runway 10 outside of CARLE and told to contact tower at BUGSE.

As we reached the 7.3 DME fix, also known as BUGSE,  I called tower, "Cleared to land runway 10, plan to exit Mike 3." tower responded.

My Captain was flying. I looked over at my airport diagram and told him Mike 3 was the first highspeed exit to the left and it was right after passing the end of runway 32.

Nice landing. Rolled out on M3.

Now things get busy. I have to call our operations to verify the gate is open on our radio #2. The Captain has to monitor radio #1 and prepare to go eastbound on Mike if the gate wasn't open.  While doing all of this I am running my after landing flow.

Gate was open. I then heard ground call us and ask if our gate was open.

I replied that it was open and was told , "Mike, Foxtrot, Alpha to the gate."

I was still running my flows when I switched to the ramp controller on radio #2.

As my Captain turned left on Alpha I called the ramp,

"2831 approaching top of the alley"

Ramp responded. "East line in, hold at the top"

If you look at the airport diagram for Chicago O'Hare you will see the terminals and each one has a letter. For most of the terminals there are two taxi lines to allow aircraft to taxi in or out without hitting each other.

We were assigned the "east line". When we pulled in there was another aircraft facing us on the east line preparing to leave. The west line had 4 planes deep waiting to leave.

A very tightly coreographed game of chess was involved getting the aircraft in front of us to move over to the west line so we could proceed to the gate.

Done. Blocked in on time.

Short break and then it was time to leave.

Assigned the O'hare Six Departure to Petty. Still using runways 4L, 9R and 32 for departure.

After I called Metering I listened in on outbound ground.

I heard our flight number, "Runway 4L via Alpha, Alpha 10, Bravo,  Juliet to Whiskey"

No time for me to respond.

The Captain started taxiing while I began my flow.

Having different frequencies for inbound and outbound ground frees up congestion, but can create issues as we have no idea where the plane infront of us, or getting ready to taxi across our path, is going.

Passing Alpha 8 we were told, "You have a 10 minute delay for a wheels up, taxi 4L via Bravo to Echo hold short 4L at Echo".

Fine....and this time I could read it back!

Busy taxiways.

Holding short I was just in awe at how congested this place is.

There was an aircraft in position on 4L. Another aircraft just took off from 9R.

As soon as the aircraft on 9R passed through the intersection of 4L the aircraft on 4L was told, "Cleared for takeoff no delay, aircraft on 1 mile final runway 9R".

As soon as the aircraft on 9R landed another aircraft was put into position on 9R and another on 4L. The process repeated.

Ten minutes was up and it was our turn. It's very odd to be lined up on a runway with another aircraft lined on up on crossing runway. As soon as he crossed our intersection it was our turn. Away we went.


The overnight airport was reporting 4000 foot ceilings and 4 miles visibility. Using ILS 5.

I briefed the approach and stated I'd likely be visual for most of it.

Winds were 45 knots at 3000 feet. The approach controller must not have been aware as we were on a heading of 300, then given a turn to 360 to join the localizer and cleared for the approach. I turned the heading bug and armed the approach at the same time. We blew right through the localizer due to 45 knot tailwind.

The approach controller made it seem like we screwed up. My Captain advised of the late turn he gave and the current winds. No response. Whatever.

On glideslope and localizer. Passing through 3000 feet nothing but clouds and rain. Same through 2000 feet.

"Shouldn't you see the runway or ground by now?" I asked as my eyes were scanning the instruments while his were outside.

"Yeah you would think huh? Nothing yet."

We did a second crosscheck of our instruments. We had the right localizer frequency, it was tuned to the correct course and the morse code was correct.

Clearing 500 I was preparing to go around.

Clearing 300 feet "runway in sight 10 o'clock" said my Captain.

"Got it, turn on my wiper to high." I requested.

Very windy and rainy. No nonsense landing, I just put it down.

Clearing the runway I advised tower that we broke out at 300 instead of 4000.  They thanked me for my PIREP. Bleh.

We were in the hotel van at 11:30PM. Hotel by 11:55PM. Long day...especially with the time change.

I woke up at 6AM as I couldn't sleep anymore as my body thought it was 7AM. Yep....awake for 18 hours.

Glad to be done with O'hare.


  1. One can certainly understand why you don't like O'Hare! It sounds like ground navigation is far more difficult than flying in that congested airspace. Can't you just see a GA novice calling the tower:

    Cessna 123AB: O'Hare tower, this is Cessna 123AB. We've just landed on what we think is 9R. We are clear of the runway and holding on what we think is Mike 3. We have your airport diagram, but it does not make much sense to us. We'd like to find your FBO, buy a little fuel and get out of your hair (or O'Hare). SLOW taxi instructions, please."

    O'Hare Tower: Cessna 123AB. Don't move even a single inch. Contact ground on 125.nnn and introduce yourself. They already know where you are and they will send a Follow Me truck for you. Don't move an inch until the Follow Me truck contacts you.

    Cessna 123AB: Copy. Is this going to take a while?

    O'Hare Tower: That depends upon you, sir. If you move that airplane, it could take the rest of what may be a very short life.

    O'Hare Tower: (Off radio, to a colleague) I'd send that idiot through the gates and have him part it in the car rental return lot!

    Nice Post! You're not the only one that does not like flying to/through/from the windy city!

  2. P.S. For those who don't realize it, the facilities chart (with notes) that you cited from, runs **95 pages!** The professionals don't stand a chance, let alone my hypothetical yokel in Cessna 123AB. I DO understand why you do not like using that airport!


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