For Immediate Release

October 25, 2004
Contact: Tony Molinaro
Phone: (847) 294-7427

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta today announced plans to further reduce flight delays and cancellations at O’Hare International Airport by upgrading two runways to handle more aircraft approaches during bad weather.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has completed an Environmental Assessment that allows the agency to install new equipment that will enable an aircraft to land in low-visibility conditions, the Secretary said. “This equipment will help pilots fly through poor weather conditions at O’Hare so they can make a safe landing and keep passengers on time,” Secretary Mineta said.

The Category II/III instrument landing approach system will allow an aircraft to land on Runways 27L and 27R with just 600 feet of visibility and thick cloud cover on the ground. The two runways now require a Category I approach with 1,800 feet of visibility and no less than a 200-foot ceiling. An aircraft flown by a Category II/III-trained pilot and equipped properly can execute safer, more precise approaches during bad weather because of more advanced navigational equipment on the ground and in the cockpit, as well as additional high-intensity runway and taxiway lighting.

“We’re boosting safety and capacity in one step,” said FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey. “This upgraded landing system gives pilots a clear path to touchdown, even in extremely low- visibility conditions.”

In addition to its final Environmental Assessment, the FAA also issued a finding of “No Significant Impact” and a Record of Decision to approve the installation of the new equipment. The FAA plans to begin construction and upgrading of the runway systems before the end of this year and expects the project to be completed in Fall 2005.

Technology to Cut O’Hare Weather Delays

The upgrades were a key recommendation in the June 2002 final report of the O’Hare Delay Task Force. The Task Force projected that accomplishing this upgrade would yield an approximate annual savings of $38 million for the airlines, based on expected reductions in flight cancellations caused by weather. The Task Force included air traffic experts from the FAA, O’Hare Airport, the commercial airlines, the Air Transportation Association, national pilot groups, and state and local government agencies.

Developing new procedures and upgrading runways to add capacity continue a series of actions DOT is taking to cut flight delays at O’Hare. In August, the FAA reached a landmark agreement with domestic airlines serving O’Hare. A voluntary limit on scheduled arrivals during peak hours, effective Nov. 1, will bring schedules more in line with O’Hare’s current capacity and is expected to cut the amount of time lost due to delays by 20 percent, according to computer modeling developed from six months of actual O’Hare delay information.