Category Archives: airport blog

Airport 101: A Runway is More than an On & Off Ramp for the Sky

Palwaukee_Municipal_Airport_(USGS)A runway is what makes a defined area an airport. As the FAA’s exhaustive airport design and engineering standards suggest, it is more than a long, straight strip of dirt, gravel, grass, concrete, or, on two of Chicago Executive Airport’s three runways, asphalt cut with shallow grooves to help dissipate water so the wheels of landing aircraft will not hydroplane. The third is paved with ungrooved asphalt. This asphalt is but the top layer of several applied on top of a substrate graded to a precise longitudinal crown that ensures water will run to its shoulders.

Chicago Exec’s runways are identified by the magnetic headings to the nearest 10 degrees. The three-digit compass headings for each end of PWK’s primary Runway 16/34 are 161° and 341° to 16 and 34. Painted markings not only “name” each end of the runway, they identify the centerline, threshold, touch-down zone, which is right after the runway number, and the fixed distance marks, a diminishing number of longitudinal lines spaced 500 feet apart.

Surrounding the pavement is a runway safety area, a smooth graded area free of obstacles that would damage an airplane that inadvertently undershoots the threshold, over-runs the opposite end, or veers off the pavement to either side. The runway lights that parallel each edge are frangible, designed to break away from their mounts when hit. Because an airplane’s speed plays a significant part in undershooting the runway threshold or over-running its other end, the FAA requires runway safety areas to extend 1,000 feet beyond the pavement. When this space isn’t available, airports, like Chicago Exec, employ EMAS, engineered material arresting system. As recently demonstrated, EMAS reliably absorbs high amounts of kinetic energy without excessive damage to the aircraft.

Chicago Exec’s Runway 16/34 is 5,001 feet long and 150 feet wide. Runway 12/30 is 4,415 feet long and 75 feet wide, and Runway 6/24 is 3,677 feet by 50 feet, but their entire lengths are not available for landing. The threshold of Runway 12 is displaced 295 feet from the actual end of the pavement. Runway 30’s threshold is displaced 432 feet. Runway 6/24’s thresholds are displaced 372 feet and 1,249 feet respectively. Airports displace their thresholds for a number of reasons, from obstacle clearance and noise abatement or meeting the undershoot and over-run runway safety area requirements.

R30White arrows, like the ones here on Runway 30, designate the displaced threshold. Airplanes can taxi on and start their takeoff runs from a displaced threshold, but they cannot land on them. This reduces the runway’s available landing distance. Displaced thresholds do not shorten Chicago Exec’s Runway 16/34, so its entire 5,001 feet is available for landings.

Available landing distance isn’t the only number important to jets; the accelerate-stop distance is another. It’s the distance a jet needs to reach V1, and then stop using maximum braking, if an engine fails before or at this airplane-specific speed. If an engine fails after V1, there isn’t enough pavement to stop safely so the pilot continues the takeoff on one engine, which is a design requirement for commercial and corporate jets. In planning every flight, pilots look at their destination’s runway information to make sure the runway meets the airplane’s requirements.

A runway’s requirements can also extend off an airport’s property. At most airports, a 3-degree glideslope ensures that a landing airplane will have an obstacle-free approach slope between its final approach fix and the runway’s touchdown zone. Several different light systems help pilots fly this approach path in good weather. Addison uses a PAPI, a precision approach path indicator composed of four lights that shine red or white depending on the airplane’s elevation. Four red is too low, four white is too high, and two of each is just right.

When the weather is bad, pilots follow their instrument landing system instruments, which align them with the runway centerline and keep them on glide path. Each instrument approach has weather minimums classified by ceiling and visibility. With its ILS, Runway 16 minimums are 300 feet and a mile, which is why it’s served by an approach lighting system, a combination of light bars and strobes that help pilots quickly make the transition from instruments to the runway and a safe landing.

EMAS: It Just Works

EMAS FalconIt seems as if it was just a few months ago that we published a story explaining that the airport’s new engineered materials arresting system (EMAS) was operational.

Actually, come to think of it, we did just write that story in November, explaining the safety benefits of a new EMAS now stationed at each end of the long, essentially north to south, runway 16/34.

The EMAS was installed after the FAA published a requirement for a safety barrier at each end of the runway at most airports. Unfortunately, Chicago Executive airport is land-locked with no extra open space to simply lay down an extra 1,000 feet of concrete at each end, of the runway to create that barrier, known as a Runway Safety Area. EMAS was the next best option.

In the early morning hours of January 26, just three months after the final EMAS work was completed, a Falcon jet pilot had trouble stopping his aircraft as he landed to the south from over Wheeling.

As the pilot approached the crushable EMAS blocks at the south end of the airport near Palatine Rd., the barrier performed precisely as it was designed. The blocks began to crumble under the weight of the 20,000 lbs. airplane and halted the aircraft in about 150 feet, preventing it from entering nearby Palatine Road. Neither of the two pilots was injured and damage to the aircraft was minimal. The aircraft has since flown out of the airport and back to its home base in Michigan. The reason the pilot was unable to stop is still under investigation by the FAA.EMAS still

What’s really important about this story though is that the EMAS worked perfectly in January and brought the airplane to a safe stop with only minor damage. While an EMAS installation is not cheap, the Falcon pilots, as well as everyone in the community can rest easier knowing that the large aircraft that use runway 16/34 can indeed be stopped within the airport boundary in an emergency. Until repairs – estimated to cost about $396,000 – the barrier is still operational, except for the few blocks damaged by the Falcon that were removed. And in case you’re wondering, the airport doesn’t have to pay for the repairs. That bill gets sent to the insurance company of the Falcon’s operator.

Other business aviation airports that also thought ahead enough to install EMAS include, Greenville Downtown SC, Hyannis Barnstable MA. Dutchess County NY, Teterboro NJ, St.Paul Downtown MN, Kansas City Downtown MO, Newcastle Wilmington DE, Telluride CO, Martin County MD, Republic airport NY, Groton New London CT, Cleveland Burke Lakefront OH, Addison TX, and Monterey CA.

B4U Fly

B4U flyThe FAA on Tuesday released a new smartphone app called – B4U Fly – to tell users about current or upcoming requirements and restrictions in areas of the National Airspace System (NAS) where they may want to operate their unmanned aircraft system (UAS). The app is now available for Apple devices and can be downloaded from the App Store.

The B4UFLY app includes a number of enhancements the FAA developed as a result of user feedback during the beta testing announced in May 2015 . Within two taps, users know if it is safe to fly at their current location. The app provides a status indicator that tells users: “Proceed with Caution,” “Warning – Action Required,” or “Flight Prohibited.” The app also features a planner mode that allows users to select a different time and location for an upcoming flight and determine if there are any restrictions at that place and time.

By law, hobbyists who want to fly within five miles of an airport must notify the airport operator and the air traffic control facility (if there is one) prior to flying. For now, B4UFLY will ask users who are supposed to notify the airport before flying for voluntary information about their planned flight. This will not meet the statutory requirement to notify the airport and air traffic control facility, but the data will help the agency make informed policy decisions related to notification. This information will not be publicly available.

More detailed information is available at  B4UFLY webpage.

Chicago Helicopter Experience Serves Chicago Executive with Premier Charter Service

che cityFrom its founding in 2011 until the City of Chicago approved its downtown heliport in 2014, Chicago Executive Airport was home for Chicago Helicopter Experience, CHE. Its founding airport is just one of the destinations served by the company’s recently announced service, Premier Charters. Operating under an FAA Part 135 charter certificate, PWK leads the list of CHE’s most popular destinations, just 11 minutes from its downtown terminal.

Flying the five-passenger EC130 and twin-turbine EC-135 helicopters, CHE’s instrument-rated commercial pilots stand ready to get passengers where they need to go 24/7 at 160 mph. In addition to Chicago Exec, CHE’s popular destinations include airports throughout Chicagoland, from O’Hare and Midway to Aurora, DuPage, Schaumburg, South Bend, Gary/Chicago, Michigan City, and the Grand Geneva Resort. At Chicago Exec and the other airports it serves, CHE can land at the FBO of the customer’s choice.

CHE also serves a number of off-airport destinations. They include the Medinah, Autobahn, and Cog Hill country clubs, the Harborside International Golf Center, Chicagoland Speedway, the Northbrook Gun Club, and the Horseshoe Casino. But the company makes it clear that the destinations it serves are not limited to this list. As its website makes clear, “We will fly you anywhere in the Midwest quickly and comfortably.”

Making the most of time is what aviation does best. Fixed-wing aircraft are better suited for longer distances and helicopters have no equals when it comes to shorter distances, especially in cities where almost every square foot of space is already spoken for. Together, they form a partnership that serves people’s aviation needs. When it comes to travel, the shortest distance is not a straight line; it is the ultimate destination’s nearest airport and heliport.

che mapChicago Executive is mere hours from any airport on either coast, and CHE’s heliport, located 2 miles from McCormick Place, 3 miles from the financial district, and less than 4 miles from the Magnificent Mile, is just 11 minutes from PWK. In 2016, at its downtown heliport, CHE will open its 20,000-square-foot LEED Gold certified terminal with its green rooftop and flight observation deck. In addition to customer service amenities and meeting facilities, it will feature a customer experience center with interactive and educational exhibits. It covers almost all the transportation bases. It is just off I-55, with ample free parking. A water taxi dock is part of its 2016 additions, as is bicycle parking.

Premier charter service is but one aspect of CHE’s services. The company was founded on aviation’s primary reward, viewing the world from an elevated perspective—day or night. But the addition is significant to aviation throughout Chicagoland because it inaugurates helicopter service to and from the city.

Long-Time PWK Pilot Announces Retirement From CAP

Lou Wipotnik and Jamie_30 Nov 2015Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Lt. Colonel Lou Wipotnik, a long-time PWK flight instructor and former commander of the Chicago Executive airport squadron last week donated a hand-carved model of a Cessna 172 to the growing office collection of airport Executive Director Jamie Abbott. The donation occurred as Wipotnik announced his retirement from the CAP after 26 years of service, effective November 30, 2015. The 172 is an exact replica of N903CP, a CAP aircraft once based at PWK.

Wipotnik said, “I wanted to offer the Executive Director a small token of appreciation for the years of wonderful treatment he’s offered CAP, as well as the cooperation we’ve received from the Village of Wheeling and the City of Prospect Heights.”

Lou Wipotnik began flying in 1957 at Sallie’s Flying School at PWK and joined CAP that same year rising to become first the squadron and then CAP group commander until he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1964. He returned to PWK in 1989 and served at the PWK squadron until his retirement.

Wipotnik was also in 1996 named the FAA’s Flight Instructor of the Year and was recently inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame for 2016. Despite his retirement from CAP, Lou says he’ll continue to teach people to fly at the Leading Edge Flying Club and Fly There LLC, both based at hangar 5, as well as with individual aircraft owners.

One PWK Pilot’s Story: Why He Flies

Chgo nightI’m sorry.

Unasked, I feel compelled to write about my flying experience this past Sunday night. I’m not sure if I am apologizing because I am sharing a personal story without you asking for it, or if it’s  because you weren’t with me. Over the last 1500 hours, I’ve had many pleasant flights. Like all pilots, most flights cause me to say out loud, “I love flying!”  But this night was somehow different.

My flight to BMI was uneventful, but exciting as I was flying down to enjoy dinner with one of my sons who happened to be in town to see a client. Flying is always great, but has special meaning when I can see family….. AND EAT!  As an added benefit, I found a new great restaurant.

After dinner, he dropped us off, and after a preflight, we headed north to PWK. The flight was only about 30 minutes, and as we approached Chicago, I descended to stay under the Bravo (O’Hare airspace). With the lights below and the dark sky above, I dimmed the panel, making the plane almost invisible. Combined with a glass like smoothness in the air, it created a visual I couldn’t remember experiencing before. It was as if I was in an easy chair, and I was directing the chair through a magical world. There was no sense of speed, other than the city lights moving by below me. I didn’t want the flight to end, and wished all of my friends (pilot and non-pilot alike) could’ve been with me.

I write and talk to pilots about getting out to the airport to go flying.  I’m always amazed how little we fly, considering how much we all love it. I’m hoping reading this will serve as a catalyst for some of you to find your own special aviation moment. Get back in the plane and experience something that so few people will ever know.

And learn from me, invite someone to share it with.


March Epner flies a Cirrus and also serves as president of the Leading Edge Flying Club based at PWK’s hangar 5

Airport Photo Contest Winner Announced

15- Neal Kesler 01The results are in and Neal Kesler and his Cessna 182 have taken home the gold … well, so to speak.

Don’t take it too personally if your photo didn’t make the cut for the airport newsletter here. We never seem to tire of seeing new photos of airport people and their machines, so send us yours. All that we ask is that it is your original photo and was shot somewhere at PWK. Of course there’s no prize, just a great photo published for all to see.

E-mail it to Rob Mark at the airport communications office … Who knows, maybe we’ll be looking at yours in a few weeks too.


CABAA ATC Committee Works with FAA for Efficient Chicagoland Airspace

CaptureIn the National Airspace System, no airport is an individual island. Large or small, no matter where it’s located, its operations affect, to some degree, the rest of the system because it is a living organism in a state of constant movement. Naturally, these affects are more pronounced at the hub airports, like O’Hare International, that anchor the Class B airspace to the cities they serve.

Given their volume of traffic, the approach and departure paths first serve the needs of these hub airports, but in Chicago, for more than a decade the ATC Committee of the Chicago-area Business Aviation Association (CABAA) has worked with the FAA to more efficiently meet the needs of Chicago Executive and the other airports that surround O’Hare, including DuPage, Waukegan National, Lewis University, and Aurora.

CABAA formed the committee about the same time that the O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP) was announced in 2001. With its transition to an east-west flow, changes to the Class B would come over time with these changes. The ATC Committee was formed to work with the FAA to develop efficient procedures for business aviation aircraft operations at the satellite airports, said Mark Zakula, the committee’s current chairman.

After months of study of the Center and TRACON procedures, the committee offered suggestions that improved business aircraft operations at Chicago Exec and the other satellite airports without adversely affecting the airplanes bound for O’Hare. Some of the solutions the committee offered worked, and some didn’t, but the FAA quickly understood and appreciated the work the committee invested in working toward a fair airspace solution.

When discussing an approach procedure for Chicago Exec, the committee suggested that rather than flying up the lake at 3,000 feet, that it might be better for all involved to fly over the Class B and then turn back. The business jets would be flying farther, but they’d be high and fast, which saves time and fuel and optimizes the need of both airports.

When the ATC committee started work, Chicago was the only Class B airspace without standard instrument departure and arrival routes for its satellite airports, said Zakula. “Now, for the first time ever we have southbound standard instrument departure procedures for all the satellites airports.” Other arrival and departure procedures to these airports are now being developed as work progresses on the final phase of the OMP.

Around the Airport

Executive Director Hand Delivers Some Cash


Madeleine Monaco with Airport Executive Director Jamie Abbott

The PWK Board of Directors and the airport’s Executive Director last week delivered a check for $2,000 to Madeleine Monaco, this year’s President of the Chicago Executive Pilots’ Association. The check, destined for the pilot association’s scholarship fund, was the airport’s donation from money earned at the July 4th weekend’s 5K race that brought over 400 runners and walkers to the field. Each year in June, the pilots association announces the winners of that year’s scholarships. The total amount awarded annually is equal to roughly half of the amount donated each year.

Scholarship winners are students attending an Illinois accredited institute of higher learning in an aviation program focused on a wide range of subjects in addition to learning to fly. Monaco said, “The past few years have brought us many applicants across the spectrum of aviation careers. All have shown dedication, good grades, financial need and good career goals. We have also funded cadet flight training from time to time at the Johnson Flight Academy held each year at Coles County Airport for Civil Air Patrol Cadets.” In the recent past, individual scholarships amounts have averaged about $1,000 range although one in 2013 did total $6,500. Monaco said the association hopes to see the scholarship’s base fund continue growing each year. Learn more about the Chicago Executive Pilots Association online.

Airport Noise Committee Holds First Meeting

The Airport Noise Committee (ANC) met for the first time on September 15th at the airport office to discuss the group’s purpose, as well as the details of how subject matter would be handled in the future. Future quarterly meetings were scheduled including the December’s that will takes place on December 8th at 6:30 p.m., again at the airport office. The ANC is comprised of one Aldermen from Prospect Hts. and one Trustee from Wheeling, in addition to three local residents, one from Wheeling, one from Prospect Hts. and one from Mt. Prospect. rounding out the ANC is airport Executive Director Jamie Abbott, Airport Communications Director Rob Mark and PWK Tower Manager Jim Bergagna. The group generally agreed to evaluate a number of issues on the table, such as possibly adding noise monitors around the airport to measure noise levels, as well as updating the airport’s noise models that recently expired. Another goal is to develop cost-effective solutions to airport-generated noise when possible while reviewing how noise complaints currently generated by local residents will also fit into the ANC’s agenda. The group learned that the option to seek federal funding for any local noise sound proofing of homes, for instance, is dependent upon first updating those old noise models. Jamie Abbott said he’d be talking to the Board about that at the next meeting in October. While the next quarterly meeting is, of course, open to the public, questions or comments about airport noise issues or topics to be added to the next agenda may be sent at any time to Rob Mark at, prior to that December meeting.

Wheeling/Prospect Hts. Chamber of Commerce Holds Business Meeting at Atlantic AviationWPH CHamber 9-15

Also on September 15th, nearly 50 people attended an event created by the Wheeling/Prospect Hts. Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with both the airport and Atlantic Aviation to help create the next generation of leaders in the manufacturing industry. Key to the event’s success this year and in the future, will be matching the needs of local businesses with the programs young people are studying before they graduate from local academic institutions such as Harper College, National Lewis University, District 214, Wheeling High School and Solex College. Wheeling Village Manager Dean Argiris and Prospect Hts. Mayor Nick Helmer kicked off the afternoon’s presentations, followed by comments from representatives of the various schools and finally much Q & A from the audience. The audience also learned that Wheeling and Prospect Hts. are part of the fourth largest manufacturing district in the United States. While this was the first time this particular chamber leadership gathering was held, it is expected to become an annual event. More information about the Wheeling Prospect Hts. Chamber of Commerce is available online.

A Blog Means Airport News

blogWelcome to Chicago Executive Airport’s new blog.

For people new to this sort of communication, a blog is a local online newspaper of sorts. This one just happens to be for and about Chicago Executive airport, also known as PWK to pilots. Over the coming months, we’ll publish stories that explain why the airport exists and what owning it means for the communities of Wheeling and Prospect Heights that jointly own the place.

Our goals here, in alphabetical order, are to educate, entertain, and inform you about all aspects of the airport and the communities it serves. One measure of our success will be your level of surprise, as in, “Gee, I didn’t know that!” The most interesting part of a blog is that it’s a two-way street. If you like what you see here, you’ll be able to comment. And if you don’t like what you see or read, you can still comment … as long as your language doesn’t become offensive of course.

Introducing members of Chicago Exec’s extended family to each other is one of our driving forces with this venture because it fosters an appreciation of the people who contribute to the success of the airport, whether they work on the airport or live and work in the local community.PWK Race 2015

We believe that no endeavor is insignificant. Cutting the grass may seem like nothing more than a seasonal task; but how many people even appreciate what contribution the height of the grass plays in the airport’s wildlife management plan? Or what about the training required to drive in the airport’s operations area? What kinds of people work in the control tower and what exactly do they do there? What about the local firefighters and police who work the airport? Certainly you must have questions about what happens on the airport, so e-mail them to us and we’ll do our best to answer.

While we all work hard at PWK, we also believe in having a little fun along the way, like our 5K Run the Runway race last week, or that same evening’s community entertainment topped off with our first ever fireworks show.

We’ve made it easy for you to follow what happens at the airport too. In the gray column way over to the right of this story, you’ll see our subscribe icon. Just type in your e-mail and we’ll add you to our mailing list. Then every few weeks when we post a new story, you’ll be able to read them, as well as comments if you choose. You can also follow us on Facebook at: pwkairport and on Twitter @pwkchiexec

You can always reach me at

Thanks for reading. 

Rob Mark, Airport Communications