Chicago Midway International Airport, IL


Eddie sez:

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.

Another issue occurs when the winds favor Runway 22L and 22R. A long straight in approach would bring you closer to Chicago than they would like so the old method was to shoot an approach to Runway 31 and then circle to 22L. The city's rectangular grid presents an optical illusion that tends to cause pilots to fly too tight a pattern and overshoot. (More about this below.) So the new solution is to shoot an RNAV(GPS) or RNAV(RNP) that brings you into 22L at an angle. If you are unable to shoot this approach and the airport is busy, expect a holding pattern until they can fit you in for the circle. (Both of these methods are shown by videos below.)

Those problems aside, it is a better airport than most the city's alternatives and they do a good job with snow.


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

Last revision:


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

The only two departure procedures (Cicero and Midway) are straight forward, requiring quick turns and restricting speed to 250 Knots until advised.

FBO Notes

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

Accident of Note

Southwest Airlines 1248.