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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chicago Midway International Airport

Chicago Midway International Airport
Midway Airport Airfield.jpg
Aerial view of Chicago Midway International Airport, a.k.a. the "world's busiest square mile".

MDW is located in Chicago
MDW (Chicago)
Location of airport in Chicago
Airport typePublic
OwnerCity of Chicago
OperatorChicago Airport System
ServesChicago, Illinois, USA
Elevation AMSL620 ft / 189 m
Coordinates41°47′10″N 087°45′09″W
Statistics (2008)
Aircraft operations253,901
Passenger volume17,340,497
Cargo tonnage14,254
Source: FAA and airport website

Midway Airport diagram
Chicago Midway International Airport (IATA: MDW, ICAO: KMDW, FAA LID: MDW), also known simply as Midway Airport or Midway, is an airport in Chicago, Illinois, United States, located on the city's southwest side, eight miles (13 km) from Chicago's Loop. The airport's current IATA code MDW has been in use since it was implemented in 1949 when Chicago Municipal Airport was renamed Chicago Midway Airport,  although the airline schedule books continued to call it CHI until airline flights began at O'Hare. It is bordered by 55th Street, Cicero Avenue (terminal entrance), 63rd Street, and Central Avenue. The airport's northern half is within the Garfield Ridge community area, and the southern half is within the Clearing community area. The airport is managed by the Chicago Airport System, which also oversees operations at O'Hare International Airport and Gary/Chicago International Airport.
Midway is dominated by low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines. AirTran Airways and Delta Air Lines are the airport's other major operators. Both the Stevenson Expressway and Chicago Transit Authority's Orange Line provide passengers access to downtown Chicago. Midway Airport is the second largest passenger airport in the Chicago metropolitan area, as well as the state of Illinois, after Chicago O'Hare International Airport.
Today, Midway Airport serves as a focus city for Dallas-based Southwest Airlines For over 16 years, Chicago Midway International Airport had been the main hub for Indianapolis-based ATA Airlines (ATA), but that service was reduced to four destinations in November 2007, and was scheduled to end by June 7, 2008 before the airline filed for bankruptcy in April 2008, immediately discontinuing all flights.


Early history (1923–1962)
Originally named Chicago Air Park, Midway Airport was built on a 320-acre (1.3 km2) plot in 1923 and consisted of a single cinder runway that primarily served airmail services. The site was selected following the destruction of the Wingfoot Air Express when it crashed into the Illinois Trust and Savings Building, killing thirteen people, and the city decided to close the Grant Park air strip. In 1926, the Chicago City Council leased the land for commercial purposes from the Chicago Board of Education at a rate of $1560 per year. On December 12, 1927, Midway was dedicated as Chicago Municipal Airport by Chicago Mayor William H. Thompson, and became known as "Munie" to many early pilots. The unique one-square-mile footprint of Midway Airport is due to its connection to the Chicago Board of Education. Under the Land Ordinance of 1785, land was divided into townships. Each township included a one-square-mile (640 acre) section devoted to education. In most instances, one-room school houses were located on this land, the balance of which was farmed to provide funds for the operation of the school. As township school districts consolidated, much of this excess land was typically sold for other purposes. The Chicago Board of Education continued to own the Midway Airport section and rent it to the City of Chicago for airport operations until 1982, when an education funding crisis forced the Board of Education to sell the land to the City of Chicago for $16 million.
Chicago Midway Airport (formerly Chicago Municipal Airport) as it looked in 1927
During its first full year of operation in 1928, the airfield was home to twelve hangars and four runways, lit for night operations. Air traffic control was handled by flagmen,who would be positioned at the end of the runways; they were responsible for controlling 14,498 flight operations carrying 41,660 passengers that year. The official observation site for Chicago's weather records was also moved to Midway during that year from the downtown area and would remain there until it was moved again, this time to O'Hare, in 1980.

The greater Chicago area, featuring Chicago Midway and O'Hare International Airports

The former Main Terminal entrance of
Chicago Midway Airport before the
airport's recent expansion project

A new passenger terminal and administration building, funded by a bond issue, was dedicated in 1931 by Chicago mayor Anton Cermak, and in the following year Midway Airport earned the title of "World's Busiest" with over 100,846 passengers riding on 60,947 flights. During some years thereafter New York's airport (Newark, then LaGuardia) was the busiest airline airport in the United States, but Midway passed LaGuardia in the early 1950s and retained the title until O'Hare claimed it in 1961.
In 1941, Midway Airport joined World War II efforts because of its long runways and mid-continent position. The war years proved to be a boon for Midway, which saw new construction funded in part by $1 million in federal monies from the Works Progress Administration, and work on additional runways moved forward in 1941 when a court ordered the Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad to reroute tracks in the vicinity of the airfield. Midway handled a full 25% of the nation's 417,000 passengers during that year.
The airport was officially renamed on July 8, 1949 by a unanimous vote in the City Council to "Chicago Midway Airport" in honor of the World War II Battle of Midway – not after Midway Airlines, as many have believed, nor because the airport is located at the west end of 59th Street (the eastern end of which is part of Chicago's historic Midway Plaisance). Midway saw 3.2 million passengers carried on 223,000 flights during 1949. The number of passengers rose to 3.5 million the next year and reached a height of 10 million in 1959. This video of Chicago Midway Airport in 1954 shows the increase in traffic that Midway Airport experienced throughout the 1950s.
The April 1957 OAG shows 414 weekday fixed-wing departures from Midway: 83 American, 83 United, 56 TWA, 40 Capital, 35 North Central, 28 Delta, 27 Eastern, 22 Northwest, 19 Ozark, 11 Braniff, 5 Trans-Canada and 5 Lake Central. Air France, Lufthansa and REAL (of Brazil) had a few flights a week.
But Midway was running out of room, and in any case could not handle the 707 and DC-8 jetliners that began appearing in 1959; every Chicago jet flight had to use O'Hare, which had opened to the airlines in 1955. Electras and Viscounts could have continued to fly out of Midway, but O'Hare's capacious new terminal opened in 1962, allowing airlines to consolidate their flights. Midway had no major airline service from 1962 until the 727 appeared in 1964. In August 1966 a total of four fixed-wing arrivals were scheduled, all United: three 727s from Baltimore and one from La Guardia.

Post-O'Hare reconstruction (1963–1993)
By 1967, reconstruction had begun at the airport, adding three new concourses with 28 gates and three ticket counters, and in 1968 the city invested $10 million in renovation funds. The funds partly supported construction of the Stevenson Expressway, which proved to be a major route for passengers to the airport, and Midway saw the return of major airlines during that year, serving 1,663,074 passengers on more than 274,062 flights, aided in part by the introduction of jets, such as the McDonnell Douglas DC-9, Boeing 727, and Boeing 737, that were capable of using Midway's shorter runways, which the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 could not.
In 1979, Midway Airlines began operations, the first to do so after the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, and went on to become the flagship carrier at Midway before ending its operations in 1991. Midway Airlines helped revitalize the airport and led the way for other discount carriers, who benefited from Midway's lower costs and close proximity to Chicago's Loop, to prosper. Southwest Airlines, which began operations at Midway in 1985, was one such beneficiary. Three years earlier, in 1982, the City of Chicago purchased Midway Airport from the Chicago Board of Education for $16 million.
The Chicago Transit Authority displaced the original location of the Carlton Midway Inn to open a new CTA terminal at the airport on October 31, 1993 for the newly established Chicago 'L' Orange Line, which connected Midway to Chicago's Loop. The CTA's Orange Line connects Midway to downtown Chicago via elevated train transportation. Midway Airport is the terminus of the line, which traverses the southwest portion of the city before ending up in the Loop and cycling back to Midway again. The Orange Line does not run 24 hours a day (unlike the Blue Line, which provides 24-hour service to O'Hare & the Red Line), but does operate extensive hours from about 4:00 A.M. to 1:00 A.M., running at an average of 8-minute intervals. The train journey from Midway Airport to the Loop takes 25 minutes.

Recent history (1994–)
In 1996, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley announced the Midway Airport Terminal Development Program, which was launched the next year. At the time, it was the largest public works project in the state. The Midway Airport parking garage opened in 1999, bringing covered parking to the airport for the first time. The garage, offering 3,000 hourly and daily parking spaces, is connected to the Midway terminal building for convenient access to ticket counters and baggage claim areas.
Continuing with the expansion project, a pedestrian bridge over Cicero Avenue was constructed in 2000. The bridge connects the new terminal to the new concourses. In 2001, the new 900,000-square-foot (84,000 m2) Midway Airport terminal building opened, offering expanded ticket counters, spacious baggage claim areas, traveler information and a short walking distance to airline gates. A 50,000-square-foot (4,600 m2) food court opened with Chicago-style food and retail options, and in 2002, Midway welcomed the return of direct international service after a 40-year absence with the opening of the new Federal Inspection Service facility in Concourse A.
In June 2004, Mayor Daley and airline officials celebrated the completion of the Terminal Development Program.The expansion project resulted in the addition of 14 gates (from 29 to 43), with the airport now providing 43 gates on 3 concourses. A new 6,300-space economy parking garage, including a new bridge and roadway used exclusively for buses shuttling passengers to and from the terminal, opened in December 2005.
Simultaneous to Midway's expansion, ATA Airlines began rapid expansion at Chicago Midway in the early 2000s, and prior to 2004, ATA offered significant scheduled service to destinations from Midway Airport and was the airport's dominant carrier, occupying and operating 14 of the 17 gates in Concourse A. However, after the airline declared bankruptcy in October 2004, scheduled service from Midway significantly decreased.

ATA Airlines opened their Chicago-Midway hub in 1992, and was the largest carrier at Midway as recently as 2004. ATA ceased all operations in April 2008. In the picture is an ATA Boeing 737-800

Due to repeated cancellations to its schedule, ATA then offered non-stop flights to 4 destinations, and mainly operated out of only 2 gates in Concourse B. On May 11, 2007, the airline added new service from Chicago to Oakland and Ontario, California.These new additions marked the first time ATA increased service at Chicago Midway in almost three years. However, just five months later, ATA announced they would end service to Ontario on January 7, 2008. On April 3, 2008, ATA Airlines discontinued all operations. The airline had operated at Chicago-Midway since 1992.
As of November, 2008, Porter Airlines flies between Midway and Toronto, Canada, as the only international route served from Chicago-Midway, since ATA Airlines ceased operations in April that year; it had flights to Mexico before the airline closed operations, until Volaris started operations from Guadalajara on December 13, 2010.
In early 2009, construction began on an expansion of Concourse A. Construction is complete and a new walkway, food court, and viewing have been built to connect gates A4A and A4B to the main A concourse. Construction was completed in the spring of 2010.

On April 20, 2009, a $2.5 billion deal to privatize the airport via a 99-year lease fell through when the consortium could not put together financing. The City is to keep $125 million in the downpayment. The consortium operating under the name of Midway Investment and Development Company LLC consisted of Vancouver Airport Services, Citi Infrastructure Investors and Boston's John Hancock Life Insurance. It was awarded the contract in October 2008 by the City Council which voted 49-0 to approve it. The consortium would have operated the airport and collected airport parking, concession and passenger facility charges. However, Chicago would have continued to provide fire and police services. Chicago privatized the Chicago Skyway in 2007.

The two original Southwest Airlines maintenance hangars at Midway Airport.

Chicago Midway Airport is the second largest passenger airport in the Chicago metropolitan area, and is the second busiest in the state of Illinois after Chicago O'Hare International Airport. In 2009 17,089,365 passengers traveled through Chicago Midway, second behind O'Hare International Airport, and ahead of Gary/Chicago International Airport and Chicago Rockford International Airport. In 2005, Chicago Midway International Airport was the 30th busiest airport in the United States in terms of passenger traffic. In its 80-year history of passenger traffic, Midway Airport has had 21 incidents and accidents, and only one accident since 1976.
Southwest is the dominant carrier at Midway, controlling 29 of the airport's 43 gates. Currently, the airline offers 216 daily departures to 52 destinations.
Chicago Midway International Airport ranked third amongst large airports in the nation for "Best On-Time Arrival Rates" in June 2007, with 75.4% of all flights (8,087) arriving on time, a 3.8% increase from the previous year. It ranked highest in customer satisfaction among medium-sized airports (10 million to 30 million passengers per year) in J. D. Power and Associates' 2008 study.


The original fully developed 1940s layout included eight runways that crisscrossed the 8-by-8-block (one square mile) property. All terminals and hangars were on the square periphery. By the late 1970s the shorter north–south and east–west runway pairs had been closed, though some were converted to taxiways. The other four original runways remain in use, all significantly strengthened and enhanced, but essentially the same lengths as always. A short runway (13R/31L) for light aircraft was added in 1989.
Chicago Midway International Airport covers one square mile (640 acre, 2.59 km2) and currently has five runways:
Runway 13C-31C: 6,522 × 150 ft (1,988 × 46 m), air carrier runway, ILS equipped.
Runway 4R-22L: 6,446 × 150 ft (1,965 × 46 m), air carrier runway, ILS equipped.
Runway 4L-22R: 5,507 × 150 ft (1,679 × 46 m), general aviation and air taxi.
Runway 13L-31R: 5,141 × 150 ft (1,567 × 46 m), general aviation and air taxi.
Runway 13R-31L: 3,859 × 60 ft (1,176 × 18 m), light aircraft only.
Because Midway is surrounded by buildings and other development, the landing thresholds of the runways are displaced to provide a proper obstacle clearance. Both the FAA and the airlines ensure safety by adhering to calculated load limits and various weather minimums. Because of the displaced landing thresholds, the runways have shorter distances available for landings than for takeoffs. 13C-31C, the longest runway, only has an available landing distance of 6,059 feet (1,847 m) in the southeast direction, and 5,826 feet (1,776 m) operating to the northwest. All the other runways have a landing distance below 5,930 feet (1,810 m). The largest aircraft normally seen at Midway is the Boeing 757. Due to the short runways, widebody aircraft are impractical, and even Boeing 737s must occasionally take off less than fully loaded on hot summer days when aircraft performance is substantially reduced. Normally, the commercial planes only takeoff and land on runways 4R, 22L, 31C, and 13C. The other runways are used by smaller aircraft. Out of the four large runways, all are used about evenly, with the exception of 13C. 13C is rarely used, because it interferes with O'Hare traffic.

Terminals, airlines and destinations

Destinations served nonstop from Chicago-Midway

Southwest Airlines is the dominant carrier at Midway, operating more than 225 daily flights out of 29 of Midway's 43 gates to over 45 destinations across the United States.

An AirTran Airways Boeing 717-200 with a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 in the background.

The carriers transporting the most passengers from Chicago Midway Airport are Southwest and AirTran. In 2008, a total of 17,340,497 passengers were carried through MDW, a 10.52% decrease from the previous year. Also in 2008, 253,901 aircraft passed through Midway Airport, a 16.66% decrease from 2007. Since the merger of Northwest Airlines into Delta, Delta is now the second largest carrier at Midway, surpassing AirTran in number of daily flights and year round destinations.
For complete information on flights to and from Chicago Midway International Airport, please see the airport's website.
Midway has 43 aircraft gates on three concourses (A, B, and C)
Note: All international arrivals are handled in Concourse A.
Airlines Destinations Terminal
AirTran Airways Atlanta, Fort Myers, Orlando, Sarasota/Bradenton A
Branson Air Express operated by Vision Airlines Branson A
Delta Air Lines Atlanta A
Delta Connection operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines Seasonal: Atlanta C
Delta Connection operated by Comair Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul A & C
Delta Connection operated by Compass Airlines Minneapolis/St. Paul A
Delta Connection operated by Pinnacle Airlines Detroit C
Delta Connection operated by Shuttle America Atlanta C
Frontier Airlines Denver A
Porter Airlines Toronto-Billy Bishop A
Southwest Airlines Albany, Albuquerque, Austin, Baltimore, Birmingham (AL), Boston, Buffalo, Charleston (SC) [begins March 13], Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Greenville/Spartanburg [begins March 13], Hartford/Springfield, Houston-Hobby, Indianapolis, Jackson, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Little Rock, Long Island/Islip, Los Angeles, Louisville, Manchester (NH), Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville, New Orleans, New York-LaGuardia, Newark [begins March 27], Norfolk, Oakland, Omaha, Ontario, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland (OR), Providence, Raleigh/Durham, Reno/Tahoe, Sacramento, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose (CA), Santa Ana/Orange County, Seattle/Tacoma, Tampa, Tucson, Washington-Dulles A & B
Volaris Guadalajara A

Other services
Airlines Destinations
Pet Airways Denver-Rocky Mountain

Previous airline service
Before the rise of O'Hare in the late 1950s, Midway was the world's busiest airport and one of the key hubs in the U.S. airline system. United Airlines was headquartered at Midway in the pre-O'Hare days, and American Airlines was originally based at Midway until it moved its headquarters to New York City in the mid-1930s. There was also a very large presence from TWA and Eastern Air Lines, as well as several others. The airport was extensively renovated in 1958 and, again, in 1967, after which several of the legacy carriers resumed service after a period of some years. Midway was also a hub for the startup Midway Airlines in the 1980s, and a focus city for former Vanguard Airlines from 1997–2000.
Both American Airlines and United Airlines ended all scheduled service to Midway in September 2006, in favor of concentrating Chicago-area operations at the larger nearby O'Hare International Airport. Despite its small size compared to O'Hare, though, Midway is still a vital transportation terminal. Its key advantage is that it is closer to the Loop than O'Hare. The average train ride on the Orange Line from the Loop to Chicago Midway International Airport is about 20–25 minutes, compared to about 45 minutes from O'Hare.
Big Sky Airlines, which commenced nonstop service on December 3, 2006 between Springfield, Illinois and Midway, later expanded the service to include daily nonstop flight to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, beginning on March 17. However, citing poor demand, both the Springfield and Eau Claire flights were discontinued on June 9, 2007.
Mesa Airlines, which began nonstop service from MDW in early 2007, discontinued all flights to Decatur and Quincy, Illinois, effective November 9, 2007. The flights, which were operated by Air Midwest, were terminated citing poor passenger demand.
Chicago Midway International Airport was once the largest hub of ATA Airlines and its wholly-owned regional airline partner Chicago Express Airlines, which operated as ATA Connection . ATA had operated a hub at Midway since 1992. As recently as 2004, ATA operated over 100 daily flights to over 30 destinations. The airline cut back service from Chicago after declaring bankruptcy in late 2004. In April 2008, the airline again declared bankruptcy and ended all scheduled operations. On April 3, 2008, ATA Airlines ended all operations, including service to the four cities the airline still served at Chicago-Midway.
Continental Airlines provided daily service from Chicago-Midway to Cleveland and Newark until May 2008. The airline discontinued Chicago-Midway service on May 31, 2008, citing high fuel prices. However, Continental has stated it will maintain all operations at nearby Chicago O'Hare International Airport.
Among the other airlines that used to frequent Midway were Access Air, Kiwi International Airlines, US Airways, MetroJet, Ozark Air Lines (2000-2001), and Pan American Airways (1998–2004).

Incidents and accidents

Significant incidents
Southwest Airlines Flight 1248, a Boeing 737-700, after it
 skidded off runway 31C on December 8, 2005.
On June 30, 1956, United Airlines Flight 718, a Douglas DC-7, was headed for Midway Airport. Over the Grand Canyon it collided with a TWA Super Constellation, killing all 128 people on both planes. This became the impetus for the modern air traffic control system.

December 8 incidents
On December 8, 1972, United Airlines Flight 553, a Boeing 737-200, crashed into a residential area outside Midway during landing. The crash of the 737-200 killed 43 of the 61 on board, and two on the ground.
Exactly 33 years later, on December 8, 2005, Southwest Airlines Flight 1248, a Boeing 737-700 inbound from Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Baltimore, Maryland, slid off the runway while attempting to land at the airport in a heavy snow storm. The airplane broke through the barrier fence of the airport, and came to rest at the intersection of 55th Street and Central Avenue bordering the airport at its northwest corner. A 6-year-old boy was killed as a passenger in a vehicle that was struck by the plane after it skidded into the street.
List of All Major Incidents at Chicago Midway International Airport
Date Registration Aircraft Carrier Location Summary
31 May 1936 NC14979 DC-2 Trans World Airlines - On approach to 27L, 1 engine out, strong gusts, crashed half a mile east of field
4 December 1940 NC25678 DC-3A United Airlines 6356 S. Keating Ave. Pilot lost sight in bad weather and crashed on landing approach resulting in nine deaths.
21 May 1943 B-24 US ARMY 3625 W. 73rd St. On approach, disoriented in bad weather, hit huge gas storage tank 2.5 miles (4.0 km) southeast
26 September 1946 NC19939 DC-3 Trans World Airlines West of 96th Ave. at 97th St. Midair collision with Boeing PT-17, DC-3 limped in to Midway
2 July 1946 NC28383 DC-3 Trans World Airlines - Crashed 1.5 miles (2.4 km) northeast of field
10 March 1948 NC37478 DC-4 Delta Air Lines 5000 W. 55th St. Plane took off 36L, at 150 feet (46 m) went vertical, at 500 feet (150 m) nosed over, crashed on 55th St.
26 March 1949 NC90736 DC-6 American Airlines - Hit power lines on approach
18 December 1949 NC86501 L-049 Trans World Airlines - Landing too far down 13R, crashed through fence, ended up at 63rd and Cicero
4 January 1951 N79982 C-46 Monarch Airlines - Overloaded taking off on 31L, could not climb, crashed on railroad tracks one half mile northeast
16 September 1951 N74689 C-46 Peninsula Transport - Belly-landed 500 yards (460 m) away at northeast 63rd and Harlem
3 March 1953 N6214C L-1049 Eastern Airlines On field Landed on 31L, gear collapsed, skidded southwest toward Hale School
17 July 1955 N3422 Convair 340 Braniff International Airways On field Hit gas station sign on approach to 13R, flipped over, crashed
5 August 1955 N74601 Boeing 377 Northwest Airlines - Landed 31L, could not stop, crashed through fence at 55th and Central
20 February 1956 N7404 Vickers Viscount Capitol On field Landing on 31L, plane flopped in 300 feet (91 m) short of threshold
15 March 1959 N94273 Convair 240 American Airlines - Lost sight of 31L on approach, crashed in railroad yard one half mile south of field
24 November 1959 N102R L-1049H Trans World Airlines Came to rest 63rd and Kilpatrick Plane departed 31L, fire on #2, circled to land 31L, crashed 0.2 miles (0.32 km) southeast of field
1 September 1961 N86511 L-049 Trans World Airlines - Plane departed Midway, lost elevator bolt, crashed near Hinsdale, Illinois
8 December 1972 N9031U 737-200 United Airlines 71st and Springfield Aircraft descended too low on approach to 31L and struck houses, crashed 1.25 miles (2.01 km) southeast of airport
25 March 1976 N1EM Lockheed Jetstar Executive On field Pilot unfamiliar with plane attempted take off 13R, never airborne, crashed into fence 63rd and Cicero
6 August 1976 N9446Z TB-25N Air Chicago 61st and Moody Avenue Poor maintenance, plane took off 4L, lost engine 2, crashed 0.4 miles (0.64 km) west of field
8 December 2005 N471WN 737-700 Southwest Airlines 55th & Central Landed 31C during snowstorm, crashed through fence, hit 2 cars, killed child in car, 55th and Central
INFORMATION SOURCED FROM: Civil Aeronautics Board archives, NTSB records, bukiri-research.
NOTE: The runway now designated 13C-31C was designated 13R-31L until 1989, when a new Runway 13R-31L was built. Runways 27L and 36L have been closed since the 1970s.


Midway Airport is served by the Chicago Transit Authority's "L" trains. Passengers can board Orange Line trains at a station in the airport terminal, which runs to downtown Chicago and the Loop (transit time about 25 minutes). This same station doubles as a stop for many CTA-run buses that serve the surrounding areas. Midway is one of the few airports in the United States that have rapid transit train to terminal service.

See also
Transportation in Chicago



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