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updated: 9/23/2013 5:44 AM

O'Hare's newest runway will mean big changes

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  • O'Hare International Airport's new runway opens Oct. 17. Officials say it will reduce delays and improve safety, but it could also mean more jet noise for some suburbs.

    O'Hare International Airport's new runway opens Oct. 17. Officials say it will reduce delays and improve safety, but it could also mean more jet noise for some suburbs.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • The site of O'Hare International Airport's newest runway was once the historical St. Johannes Cemetery in Bensenville.

    The site of O'Hare International Airport's newest runway was once the historical St. Johannes Cemetery in Bensenville.
    Daily Herald File Photo


Sure, the official name is "runway 10 Center/28 Center," but I'll always think of it as the St. Johannes Cemetery runway and recall the fight between Chicago and Bensenville that raged over O'Hare expansion.

The battle to save St. Johannes and the more than 1,400 graves on the site -- smack in the middle of the runway blueprint -- lasted years, until Chicago prevailed in court. Now the graves have been removed, and in their place is a 10,800-by-200-foot expanse of concrete that is set for commissioning Oct. 17.

The runway is capable of handling large aircraft like Boeing 747-800s. More importantly for travelers, it should increase O'Hare's capacity to handle flights and reduce delays while improving safety.

That's because the east-west layout makes it the fourth parallel runway at O'Hare. As a result, three crisscross runways will see less action throughout the day.

The newbie, intended for arrivals only, also changes O'Hare's traffic patterns fundamentally -- shifting it from an airport handling flights from four directions to one with a mostly east and west flow. The FAA anticipates 70 percent of the traffic will flow west and 30 percent east.

"This new runway will help change the flight patterns from multiple crossings to parallel runways and that's really important to enhance safety so you don't have planes crossing in the air or on the ground," Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro said.

For people living in O'Hare's shadow, that's either a good or a bad thing, because even minor variations in flight patterns can make a huge difference.

The Federal Aviation Administration projects commissioning 10C/28C will alter noise contours so that Park Ridge and Wood Dale receive more aircraft noise while Elk Grove Village, Franklin Park and Northlake quiet down.

Wood Dale Mayor Nunzio Pulice said he's hoping to meet with U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth to see if aircraft can be directed away from residential areas at least.

"We've got a lot of concerns," he told me. "We'd like to see more planes diverted over the industrial parks and Thorndale Avenue."

For fliers, more airplanes landing in parallel formation means air traffic controllers can increase arrival rates in most weather conditions.

For example, the FAA predicts that departures in good weather from east to west could grow from 100 to 150 after the runway opens. Or, arrivals from east to west in poor visibility could increase from 84 an hour to 104. But the agency stressed that's a maximum number that won't happen overnight and is contingent on the market.

So why didn't O'Hare's engineers come up with parallel runways in the first place?

Back in the 1950s, crisscross runways worked best for the aircraft at the time, Molinaro explained. Improved technology and new navigation systems today allow multiple parallel landings.

One more thing

What do the 10 and 28 in the runway's name mean? It's got everything to do with the 360 degrees on a compass. To quote directly from my FAA fact book: "a runway's number is not written in degrees, but is given a shorthand format that drops the zero at the end of the number." So 10 means 100 degrees when you are headed east and 28 is 280 degrees when you are headed west. The Center designation means it's the middle runway in the 10/28 configuration with an existing one just to the north and a third runway to the south planned.

The original O'Hare Modernization Program calls for yet another parallel runway on the north side of the airport and a western terminal, but those projects are the subject of consequential negotiations between the city of Chicago and American and United Airlines, who are in opposition.

Your voice

Bernard Thomas of Pingree Grove is steamed state law doesn't make transportation expertise a requirement when county chairmen are picking members for transit boards, such as Metra. "A cursory review of the current transportation boards reveals lawyers, accountants and political associates have been approved," Thomas said. "It appears that only one board member has any form of transportation experience. The lack of this experience creates a condition ripe for CRONYISM, defined as intimate companion, associate or familiar friend. The CRONYISM will continue unless the state law is changed requiring county chairmen to give priority to applicants with transportation expertise."

Got any thoughts on runway noise? Metra? Drop me an email at;[/URL].

You should know

Child Passenger Safety Week just wrapped up but I wanted to share AAA's list of car seat mistakes parents make. These include: moving a child out of a booster seat too soon; not installing the car seat tight enough -- there should be no more than 1 inch of wiggle room; harness straps that are too loose; a retainer or chest clip that's too low -- it should be at armpit level; allowing kids under 13 to ride in the front seat; forgetting the top tether that restrains the top of a forward-facing seat; and turning a child forward facing too soon.

Gridlock alert

Sorry, Lake County. IDOT will be spending the fall resurfacing and that means traffic on the following: Route 132 in Gurnee; Route 41 in Waukegan, Wadsworth and Lake Bluff; Route 120 in Park City and Grayslake; Route 21 in Vernon Hills and Libertyville; Route 60 in Vernon Hills and Mundelein

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