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Chicago Midway International Airport, IL (KMDW)


Chicago Midway International Airport started life in 1923 on 30 acres as Chicago Air Park, complete with one runway set up for the air mail. Over the years the airport has grown a little in area, it now occupies one square mile (640 acres), but a lot in business. KMDW was the 30th busiest in the country for the year 2005.

The problem with Midway is that it sits in the middle of the city, there are busy roads on each side of the square airport. Sure it has eight usable runways, but four of those shrink to less than 5,000 feet of landing pavement. An undershoot or overshoot will likely make you a customer at a McDonald's or a Giordano's if you prefer deep dish pizza



Photo: A view from our right wing, from Eddie's camera.

Airport Name

Chicago Midway International Airport, IL



Summer: UTC -5 CDT (Summer)

Winter: UTC -6 CST (Winter)


None, Chicago never sleeps.

Airport Diagram

Figure: Chicago Midway, from Jeppesen Airway Manual, page KMDW 10-9.

It looks like a lot of pavement, but the displaced thresholds change that:


Airport Risk Analysis

High density IFR operations, very busy ground operations.

Noise Considerations


Class B Considerations

Figure: Chicago Class B Airspace, from Jeppesen Airway Manual, page KORD 10-1B, 26 Nov 10.


Arrival Notes

The airport sits in the middle of the city and there are major roads at the end of each runway.


Photo: Midway Airport, from Wikimedia Commons, USGS.

Runway 04L


Photo: Runway 04L, from Eddie's camera.

Runway 04L is straight forward. The following is from an ILS 04R with a side step to 04L: KMDW Runway 04R Sidestep 04L.

Runway 04R


Photo: Runway 04R, from Eddie's camera.

The following is from an ILS 04R followed by the busy taxi to parking: KMDW Runway ILS 04R.

Runway 22L


Photo: Runway 22L, from Eddie's camera.


Figure: KMDW ILS 31C, circle 22L, from Eddie's notes.

The old school solution for the Runways 22 was to fly the ILS 31C circle to 22L or 22R. You will be tempted to fly directly north, aligned with the streets but this doesn't work because that angles you into the runway about 30 degrees. Another failed technique is to turn to the train station technique doesn't work, but that doesn't allow for Category C turn radius. A better technique is to stick with basic circle procedure:

  1. Fly the ILS until 1.7 nm (Cat C) from the runway. No, turn sooner! They are expecting a turn at 2.3 nm from the Category D airplanes so why not?
  2. Turn right to a reciprocal heading to the landing runway, 040°, downwind.
  3. As the landing runway appears 45° behind you, turn base toward the train station.
  4. Turn final to roll out on course.

Note: It really isn't a train station, but it looks like one.

Video: KMDW ILS 31C Circle 22L.

During a circling approach, a Category C aircraft cannot exceed 140 knots. You will be close to that in a G-450. The ILS 31 Circle to Runway 22 is often used with very strong tailwinds on Runway 31, which means you will need to adjust your downwind 040° heading or even your offset.


Figure: RNAV(GPS) Rwy 22 approach plate, from Jeppesen Airway Manual, page KMDW 12-5, 31 Jan 14.

The new school method is to fly either the RNAV(GPS) 22L or RNAV(RNP) 22L, which brings you in at an eleven degree angle. (That's close enough under TERPS to call it a straight-in, but it will require some last minute maneuvering. If you are flying a high tech aircraft they will often assign the "RNAV Yankee" approach, which is an RNP AR approach. If you are not RNAV(RNP) qualified you will have to ask for the "RNAV Zulu" approach instead, which is the RNAV(GPS) approach.

Video: KMDW RNAV(GPS) 22L.

If you cannot fly either, you will have to decline the approach. They will send you to a holding pattern until they can fit you into the ILS 31C, circle to 22L or 22R.

Runway 31C


Photo: Runway 31C, from Eddie's camera.

The preferred approach is the ILS to 31C, it is easy except you are making an approach over the city which goes right up to the end of the runway. Many radios can misinterpret the Morse code identifier and IMXT may show up as IMDT.

Video: KMDW Runway 31C.

Departure Notes

I used to say that the only two departure procedures (Cicero and Midway) are straight forward, requiring quick turns and restricting speed to 250 Knots until advised. But a reader points out at least one of the procedure is more complicated than that.

Dear Eddie,

Big fan of the website from here in U.S. Army fixed-wing country. We fly into Chicago Midway now and then and don't have a clue about soemthing on the civilan departure procedure. If departing 4L/R and you are given a tower instructed heading of say “360” how to do legally comply with that clearance when the SID states to fly something else if given a heading. In short, how do you fly this departure when tower gives you a heading 360-080? We've asked a bunch of AIS instructors and they didn't know.

Signed, Major R. Fader, US Army
Fort Lee, New Jersey


Photo: Midway Five Departure, MDW, AL-81 (FAA), ED-3, 12 Sep 2019 to 10 Oct 2019.

Click photo for a larger image

Major Fader,

I am assuming that AIS is the Army Instrument School. In the Air Force Instrument Instructor School we had to deconstruct instrument procedures and explain how they were built and why. Every now and then we would be given an assignment with no answer. The instructors would explain that many of our military procedures were drawn by "Sergeant Snuffy." Sergeant Snuffy wasn't a pilot and he just followed a procedure instruction booklet to make everything work out. Sergeant Snuffy wasn't all that bright and every now and then he made mistakes. In the civilian world, airports are filled with retired Sergeant Snuffys and in the FAA there are even more of them. This looks to me to be the work of a retired Sergeant Snuffy.

I have actually flown this procedure and the simple answer is that if your clearance is on a particular SID and you are given a heading to fly instead, the SID no longer applies unless they tell you to expect to resume the SID or at some point reclear you according to the SID. There isn't any legal problem. You had one clearance, now you have another.

But that still leads us to the poorly constructed departure procedure. In cases like this I simply call up the tower, so I just did. They told me to just fly the heading given to you by tower and disregard to 100° depiction on the SID. They also told me they have been trying to get rid of that on the chart but the bureaucracy resists.

I call towers and ARTCCs all the time. You might be surprised how many times Snuffy picks up the phone.


FBO Notes

CAA Preferred: Atlantic Aviation, 6150 South Laramie Avenue, Chicago, IL 60638, (773) 582-5720

Accident of Note

Southwest Airlines 1248.


Jeppesen Airway Manual

Revision: 20140621