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The Chicago O’Hare International Airport Master Plan Essay

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Updated: Apr 13th, 2020


Chicago O’Hare International Airport is one of the leading international airports in the world. In 2001, a review by the management of this airport, in conjunction with FAA, established that cases of delays were increasingly becoming common at this airport. The management noted that the problem started over 30 years ago when the facility started receiving more visitors than it had been designed for, and this was causing a major concern (Burghouwt 45).

The airport had to remain efficient in its operations in the market in order to remain competitive. Market competition was getting stiff with the emergence of other international airports in the country. The city of Chicago realized that they had to restructure the O’Hare International Airport not only to maintain a stream of revenues from this airport but also to enhance ease of movement to and from this city as a way of boosting trade and tourism.

In 2004, the city developed a Master Plan that was meant to help restructure the systems at this firm. In this plan, which was structured in February of 2004, the management of this airport drafted changes that were needed in order to expand the capacity of the airport to meet the expanding demands.

The master plan explained in detail the issues to do with the airport budget needed to execute the plan, the capacity that was to be achieved from this new plan, provisions for packing, and job opportunities during and after completion of the project.

Also explained in this Master Plan were the landing and take-off roads as per the new plan, the size of the new airport after completion, and the services that will be offered. In this research, the focus was to evaluate this plan and determine if it has the capacity to address the current problems which affect the airport.

Analysis of the Report

Summary for the Chicago O’Hare International Airport Master Plan Report

The Chicago O’Hare International Airport Master Plan of 2004 gives a detailed report that outlines the changes that need to be implemented at this airport to improve its capacity and to help eliminate the current problem of constant delays that have been witnessed frequently at most of its terminals. These delays, averaged at 19.5 minutes per flight, are causing serious dissatisfaction among the clients who use this airport frequently.

The report identified the time needed to complete the project, the resources that will be necessary, and the benefits that will be achieved once the project is completed. The project was divided into two phases, with the first face scheduled to be completed in 2009, while the second phase was scheduled for completion in 2013. In order to review this plan appropriately, it will be necessary to focus on the specific items in the report.

Airport budget

This Master Plan was a major project that was expected to transform the Chicago O’Hare International Airport by increasing its capacity and efficiency in the operations. To do this, the management of the airport outlined the budget that was needed to finance the entire project. According to the report by Andolino (32), the budget for the plan was given in various phases based on the project that was to be addressed.

The decision to break the budget into individual activities within the larger project was meant to clarify how the expenditures will be made. In this plan, the management started by incorporating a $ 6.6 billion budget that was meant for OMP, as was proposed in 2001. The reason for incorporating this budget that was proposed in 2001 was that it had not been implemented despite its relevance to this master plan.

The proposal was, therefore, incorporated into the 2004 Master Plan. The runway resurfacing was estimated to cost $ 4.1 billion. The new program named World Gate that involved introducing additional terminals and gates on the east of O’Hare International Airport was estimated to cost $ 2.6 billion.

Other costs for parking facilities and other facilities within the airport were also defined in this plan. In total, the O’Hare Master Plan was estimated to cost $ 13.3 billion in a period of about 20 years. The city plans to receive a sizable Federal investment for this project. It expects to receive $ 1.45 billion from FAA Facility Charges and $ 594 million as a grant from the Airport Improvement Program.

Capacity analysis

The main aim of this project is to enhance the capacity of O’Hare International Airport to reduce congestions and constant delays. As of 2006, there was an average delay of 19.2 minutes for every flight that came to this airport. This was a clear indication that an urgent measure needed to be implemented to eliminate this problem. In the new plan, this delay was expected to be reduced to 5.0 minutes per flight by 2013.

This would not only help increase the capacity of the airfield but also reduce the cases of client dissatisfaction. In the plan, it was suggested that the airfield capacity be increased to 3169 flights per day by 2013, from the capacity of 2712 in 2004. This was about a 15% increase in the capacity of the airfield that was expected to be achieved by the end of 2013. Other than the airfield capacity, the plan also proposed major changes at the terminals and gates of this airport.

In the plan, new gates and terminals were to be established east of this airport at the cost of about $ 2.6 billion. This was expected to increase the processing capacity at these facilities by over 25%. The increase in the capacity at the terminals was also boosted by the new technologies that helped speed up the processes such as inspections and luggage movements.

Provision of parking facilities

The new plan has a comprehensive focus on the provision of parking facilities at this airport. The Master Plan proposes for the construction of the new Terminal 6 Complex. The complex plan has a detailed explanation of the parking facilities, landing and take-off roads.

In terms of the packing facilities, the complex has plans for circulation roads and curbs fronts, a parking structure, realignment terminals, and access roadways. These facilities are meant to accommodate both private and public transport facilities.

As of 2004, the packing facilities had a limited capacity, and sometimes the public and some private cars could only access them on a limited basis. This was expected to come to an end after the completion of Terminal 2’s interior upgrade. The new Terminal 4 that is scheduled to be constructed under this Master Plan is also expected to expand the packing facilities.

Landing and takeoff roads

The landing and takeoff roads are integral parts within the Master Plan 2004, which were scheduled for a major improvement to increase their capacity. In this report, the management of the airport clearly demonstrated their desire to ensure that the capacities of the runways are increased to meet the rising demand. The figure below shows the proposed designed of the primary departure, overflow departure, primary arrival, and overflow arrival runways that were to be implemented in the plan.

Runways Design
Figure 1: Runways Design. Source (Andolino 56)

The landing and takeoff roads were to be upgraded in two phases. The first phase involved re-carpeting the existing roads to improve their conditions. As per the plan, this was expected to take the first two years from the time the report was adopted by the FAA. The second phase was more involving and very costly because it entailed introducing new runways to expand the capacity of this firm.

Size of airport

The Chicago O’Hare International Airport Master Plan 2004 was meant to expand the current size of the airport by constructing new facilities and upgrading the existing ones in order to improve their efficiency. According to this report, this airport has been experiencing massive growth over the years; this makes it necessary to expand its size in order to reduce congestions and eliminate delays. The figure below shows the existing airspace with all the arrival and departure corridors, which were active as at the time the report was written.

Existing airspace with all the arrival and departure corridors
Source: (Andolino 12)

As noted in the report, Chicago O’Hare International Airport is the second largest airport in this region in terms of passenger and cargo handling capacity and the physical size. However, the strategic importance of the city has seen pressure mounted on the facility resulting in congestion, which the plan seeks to address. By the time this Master Plan will be completed, the size of the capacity of the runways, parking facilities, gates, and terminals will be increased. This means that the airport will be able to handle more flights per given hour.

Job opportunities

Other than the physical structures that this Master Plan sought to change, another impact that it was expected to create was increased job opportunities at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The new facility would increase job opportunities to many residents of this city and people from other regions, either directly or indirectly. The new terminals will need to be managed by a new set of employees because the old terminals will still be active.

The new gates in the east will need additional officers. The increased capacity of the airport will require more pilots and cabin crew members as more planes are expected to land. More security agents will be hired, and so will the traffic controllers. Other than the people who were to be employed directly at the airport and in the airplanes, the increased capacity was also expected to create more jobs in this city indirectly.

More arrivals of visitors at the airport would create more jobs for taxi drivers and other agents in the transport sector (Bradley 121). This will also be expected to boost tourism in the city, which will further employ more people. The report emphasized the fact that there will be a positive ripple effect once the airport is completed.

Kinds of services in the airport for different kinds of people

The port will be open to various services for its clients. From charted planes to business and economy class services, the airport will be receiving visitors in various classes. The airport will also be able to handle a higher capacity of cargo once the upgrading is completed, as presented in the Master Plan 2004.

In the plan, the Duty-Free shops were to be expanded in order to accommodate more goods due to the increasing demand. Given the cosmopolitan nature of Chicago city and its strategic importance in the world, people from all over the world who were already using the facility by the time the report was written, will find the port very important when planning their travels.

Evaluation of the Report

A critical review of the report shows that the management of Chicago O’Hare International Airport did great work when coming up with the Master Plan 2004. Although the plan was very comprehensive and the report itself very calumnious, it is evident that the experts involved in drawing the report did thorough research before coming to conclusions. The sections discussed above clearly demonstrate how well their report was structured.

The management made an effort to make the complex calculations and construction designs simple in this report in order to make its consumption easy for those with limited financial, architectural, and engineering knowledge. The budget was broken down into individual tasks so that the officials at the FAA can determine the justification for every amount that this firm was requesting.

The Master Plan 2004 has categorically demonstrated the current capacity of the airport and the expected expansion of the facility that is to be achieved through this plan. This has been stated in a clear and conscious manner.

In this report, there is a clear demonstration in words and diagrammatically, the current situation of the parking facilities. This way, it becomes easy to determine what already exists, and the proposed changes that shall be achieved through the plan. It allows the FAA and other authorities to understand the deficits in the current facilities, and how the problem can be solved through the new strategy.

The diagrams show the current parking facilities, terminals, and gates that are actively used, and their capacities as compared to the needs of the airport. Also demonstrated clearly in the report are the landing and takeoff roads.

The report has an explanation of the current runways accompanied by the appropriate diagrams. This is accompanied by a detailed explanation that identifies the current deficits (Wells and Young 56). The report identifies jobs that will be created through this program, both directly through employments and indirectly in terms of job creation. However, it is important to note that the report has not gone into detail in discussing various services that the new airport will offer in addition to the current products.

The only explanations that are very clear are that the products offered by the firm will increase if the Master Plan 2004 is implemented effectively. However, this does not hurt the Master Plan 2004 much in terms of its value. The plan is satisfactory, and when implemented properly, it has the potential of expanding the capacity of Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

Review of the Comments of FAA on Chicago O’Hare International Airport Master Plan

Upon the receipt of the Chicago O’Hare International Airport Master Plan, the Federal Aviation Authority critically analyzed the document and gave their views on various components of the report. The comment on the facility boundary shows that the FAA is satisfied with the plan, only that small detail about boundary was left out, which should be included.

The researcher agrees with this comment. On planning activities and schedules, FAA notes that the process was successful, and so was the section on facility refinement, the fact that the researcher agrees with. FAA feels that the issue about airfield refinement has not been done satisfactorily. The researcher disagrees with this point because the report has a detailed explanation of this issue, both diagrammatically and a written explanation.

About stormwater management and utility planning, FAA notes that there should be a further analysis and data that needs to be presented in order to meet the expectation. It is a fact that the analysis was not completed (Cooper, 21). FAA feels that the Airfield simulation model experiments and models are still a work in progress, and the same comment is also given on the Roadway simulation model. This is a fact that is clearly demonstrated in the report.

FAA is satisfied with the composite concepts, and the researcher shares this view because it is clearly articulated in the report. However, this authority feels that the evaluation of the composite alternatives and the preferred composite concept selection has not been done satisfactorily in this Master Plan. The researcher has a contrary opinion about this based on the details provided in the plan.

This authority is also not satisfied with the Airport Layout Plan given by Chicago O’Hare International Airport, a comment that the researcher strongly disagrees with. The report has been comprehensive about the design and layout of the airport. Finally, the FAA feels that the issue about agency coordination and public participation has not been presented properly in the report. The researcher agrees with this comment (Cooper, 26).


The Chicago O’Hare International Airport Master Plan 2004 is a report that outlines the major developmental projects that would help improve the capacity and quality of services offered at the airport. The plan that is estimated to cost about $ billion will be divided into three main phases. The first phase is expected to be completed by 2009, while the second phase was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013.

The expansion plan involves re-carpeting and construction of new runways, development of new terminals and gates, expanding the parking facilities, and redesigning the existing airport layout to reflect the new market demands.

Based on the review of the report done above, it is apparent that the report has successfully defined what is to be achieved, how to achieve it, and the resources needed in a clear and conscious manner. The Master Plan is practical and can be implemented as it is to help improve the capacity of this airport. The FAA also appreciates this fact, although it notes that some minor details are missing and should be included.


This report can be very beneficial to future researchers who may be interested in conducting a study in this field. The report will provide them with a rich background on airport planning, budgeting, expansion strategies, the relevance of including the public in such plans, and much more information about airport development.

Works Cited

Andolino, R. O’Hare International Airport. Chicago: Federal Aviation Authority, 2004. Print.

Bradley, A. The independent airport planning manual. Oxford: Woodhead Publishing, 2010. Print.

Burghouwt, G. (2007). Airline network development in Europe and its implications for airport planning. Hampshire: Ashgate, 2007. Print.

Cooper, B. O’Hare International Airport Master Plan. Chicago: Federal Aviation Authority, 2004. Print.

Wells, A., and Young, S. Airport planning & management. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004. Print.

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