The World’s Busiest Airport.

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In the world of Commercial Aviation “The World’s Busiest Airport” is Chicago O’Hare International Airport (KORD). O’Hare is situated 71 miles to the South of my hometown airport, General Mitchell International Airport (KMKE). O’Hare has a little of everything to offer the Spotter and Enthusiast, Commercial Aircraft, BizJets, and the occasional Military type traffic. You never know what will turn up on final from A350 to AN-124 and Falcon 2000 to F-16, it is a truly a Spotter’s Mecca.

Back in 1942 the US Army Air Corps was in Chicago looking for a suitable location in which to build C-54’s for the war effort. They found themselves at Orchard Place a location 18 miles Northwest of Downtown Chicago, the first C-54 took to the air in July of 1943. Chicago O’Hare officially received its name in 1949, and is named after famed World War II Naval Aviator Edward Butch O’Hare. He was the first Combat Ace flying the famed Grumman F-4F Wildcat. The airport code came from the fact that the airport was built in the small community of Orchard Place.

Fast forward to October 30, 1955 Chicago O’Hare officially opened for business and has steadily grown in size and traffic. New Terminals, runways and the ushering in of the Jet Age changed the landscape. That landscape continues to change today. The statistics are staggering , the airport covers 7200 acres, 9 runways, and 188 Gates. In 2014 the airport boasted 881,933 movements and currently claims the title of “Busiest Airport in the World.” United and American along with their Regional affiliates have Hub Operations here, Frontier and Spirit have sizeable operations as well. Chicago O’Hare is served by 46 Passenger Airlines and 20 Cargo Airlines offering service to over 204 destinations worldwide.

Chicago O’Hare unfortunately does not have an “Official” Viewing area, sadly common place now at most major airports here in the US. But with 2 primary flows of traffic you can find plenty of permissible locations in which to observe the action. I have added a selection of my favorite photos from this past year from these locations. It does not matter what time of year or day you will find many an Enthusiast at these spots. The traffic flow is constant and the variety of all types of traffic will satisfy the Spotter and Photographer quite nicely. The most common type of aircraft you will encounter will be 737-800 and 900’s, A319 and A320’s and a toss between the CRJ and EMB-145.

You can quite easily spend an entire day, or weekend here and not grow tired of the variety. One however, needs to constantly watch the flight tracker and keep an ear tuned to the Approach Frequencies as not to miss out on a unique aircraft or livery. You will find that ORD has very distinct patterns as to what runways approaching aircraft will take, one needs to be ready to change locations at a moment’s notice. If you are after the “heavies” than Runway 10C or 28C is the typical landing runway. On occasion however you will see some” heavies” land on 9R or 27L primarily 777-200’s or 767-300’s. If you are after arrivals from the East Coast or Pacific Northwest your primary Runways would be 9L or 27R these would normally include Jet Blue, Alaska, and Air Canada Express.

You will find several spots in which you can easily view the action from outside of Chicago O’Hare and if you are a Ticketed Passenger there are some excellent vantage points as well. The photo’s I have included were taken from these spots. If Runway 28 is in use I suggest the following locations. The Schiller Park Metra Station, on Ruby Street and Leland Avenue is one of my preferred spots. This location can be very crowded through the week but on weekends it is virtually empty. If you find yourself looking for a 27L arrival your best option will be one of the parking lots on Bryn Mawr Avenue and Pearl Street head as close to dead end as you can. If 27R is in your plans than I recommend the East end of the McDonald’s Parking Lot on the corner of West Higgins Road and Mannheim Road.

All of the above locations would be advisable if the airport is in a West Traffic Flow. If the airport is in a East Traffic Flow here are some suggestions in which to spot and photograph the action. My preferred spot for arrivals on Runway 10C is at the Dead End on Gateway and Meyer Streets. This location is in an Industrial Park and again can be quite busy through the week but on weekends most of these businesses are closed. Runway 9R is a bit tricky for any good photo opportunities. The only decent option is the dead end of Supreme and Thomas Drive. This is a very heavy truck traffic area and only a quick shot is recommended here due to the amount of vehicular traffic. The last spot on the West Side of the Field would be for 9L Arrivals my preferred spot is the parking lot off Elmhurst Road and Pratt Blvd. This is also a heavy Industrial Area with a lot of truck traffic as there is a Dump across the street from this location.

The locations mentioned above are again the areas found to offer the best options. If in doubt look for the Orange Vested ORD AIRPORT WATCH Spotters (I am a Member) around the Perimeter. If you seem them out and about then you know you are in what is considered an “authorized” location. I will talk more about the Watch Group in my next article and the exciting benefits of being a member.

I spend quite a bit of time around O’Hare and this is just a slight sampling of the airlines and aircraft you will find here. O’Hare will continue to grow with new airlines being added, a new Cargo Facility under construction, and the recently opened Runway 10R/28L. Chicago O’Hare will continue to attract Enthusiasts with new and ever changing opportunities. It has been reported that China Eastern, Eva Airways and Icelandair will be commencing service in 2016. The future is definitely bright for the World’s Busiest Airport, and will continue to draw Spotters from all over the world. I will be certainly be back with more stories and photos to come.

My next story is going to be, ORD AIRPORT WATCH, who and what is it? Until next time, Blue Skies to All!

Scott Jankowski




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