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How Friendly Is MDW To GA?  
User currently offlinePilot1113 From United States of America, joined Aug 1999, 2333 posts, RR: 11
Posted (15 years 9 months 2 weeks ago) and read 7125 times:

I don't know if this topic belongs here... however, it is related to "operations" somewhat.

Here goes my question anyways: how friendly is MDW to GA? Would I have a problem flying VFR into there in a Piper Warrior?

We all know that Meigs isn't friendly to general aviation aircraft. Anyone know of any good alternatives to Meigs and MDW?


Neil B. Harrison

10 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineDesertJets From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 7907 posts, RR: 14
Reply 1, posted (15 years 9 months 1 week 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 7025 times:

I don't really know how GA friendly Midway is, but I do know the major GA relievers for both O'Hare and Midway. Palwakke (PWK) and Wakegun (UGN, i believe) are the designated relivers... but they are both on the north side... Wakegun being VERY far north in Lake County. Also on the west side there is Schamburg Muni, DuPage, and Aurora... but I am not familiar with the south side.... since I never lived there. I used to live a mile north of PWK when I was in grade school

Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
User currently offlineDC-9CAPT From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (15 years 9 months 1 week 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 7009 times:


First off, I think you need to define "Friendly". When it comes to controllers, you will find them curt, colloquial, stressed, rushed, angry, and sometimes humorous. I think of the Chicago airspace as a compressed version of So Cal (San Diego to Van Nuys). O'Hare alone fluctuates (between one and two) as the busiest airport in the US, and in terms of traffic, the Chicago airspace is among the top three busiest in the world (New York, London, and Chicago). Thus, VFR is discouraged almost by default alone.

Now, as you know, and I don't have my Chicago sectional out...ORD is class B. You, as PIC, need to have your PPL at the very least if you wish to land or take off there. NO EXCEPTIONS. You also must have a two way radio and a mode c to get into the Chicago airspace (since it is just about all C veiled where you want to go)--which you have in the Warrior.

Before we get into options for you, I have flown into Meiggs, Palwaukee, O'Hare, Midway, and Glenview NAS (when it was open). Palwaukee presents a unique challenge because every King Aire and Lear in the Midwest seems to be there on severe clear afternoon days competing with the Dentists and Lawyers out building time. I have seen an airplane (believe it was a Cherokee 6 cut off a 172) in the pattern. I have seen fist fights break out on the ramp. The controllers have broken FCC rules using colorful language there. If you choose Pal-Waukee, keep your head and a$$ wired tight. To this day, I never see aircraft anywhere else taxi like they do at Palwaukee--FAST. I went in and out of MDW in 1986 when I was getting my PPL. Back then it was busy--nothing like Palwaukee--but the only airline traffic was a few 737s from Midway Airlines, a few Midstate Metros, and a very occasional UA or NW 727.Southwest then, was considered a fad.. MDW was an airline ghost town, but busy GA-wise. Today is a different story. MDW is C. You can get servicing through Million Aire or Signature, but you must follow C rules--yeah, GA VFR is possible, but not "friendly".

So, forgive me if I'm belittling you, but this is for our general av buffs...

(1) To get into Midway you need to squawk C and have a two way radio.

(2). So, you must be talking with the appropriate ATC facility and contact with postion, altitude, becacon code, destination, and request class C service--memorize the sectional and choose a way-point (which would be marked with a flag) outside the C ring to report in.

(3). Even if the controller responds with YOUR CALLSIGN (n-number) and "stand bye" go ahead and enter the airspace since the requirements for two-way have been met.

(4). If the controller (pay attention here) responds without saying your call sign, the REQUIREMENTS ARE NOT MET. YOU CANNOT ENTER THE AIRSPACE.

(5). You must establish ATC procedures ASAP when departing class C.

(6). In general, VFR aircraft will maintain visual sep in C. 2500 feet vertical.

(7). You will be sequenced

(8). You get RADAR service according to whether or not the controllers are busy (which they will be).

WRT Meiggs. It is right on the outer ring of C (imagine that) so you need to fly VFR approach corridor from the south (which is published on an approach plate) or at least you used to. Very busy and scrunched under both ORD and MDW. Has had a mid-air or two to emphasize the importance of being alert.

If you want a less challenging stop over on a long x-country, I would suggest going up north to MWC. Timmerman in Milwaukee. Got a great restaurant on the flight line called the Sky Room. They are real GA friendly.

But, if you like to live on the edge...MDW is varsity for VFR. PalWaukee is like a New York Cab Stand, and Meiggs can be interesting. Good luck, and review your sectional thoroughly.

User currently offlinePilot1113 From United States of America, joined Aug 1999, 2333 posts, RR: 11
Reply 3, posted (15 years 9 months 1 week 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 7003 times:

I totally understand where you're coming from.

Now, let me tell you where I'm coming from. Even though I do have my Private at this time, I have a moderate amount of experience operating in a Class B enviroment, as well as, a Class C.

For the most of my training I was flying out of an airport that is below the 2,500' shelf of the Boston terminal airspace. I have spent time flying in and out of Providence. I believe that I can handle the flying for flying for that airspace. However, Chicago does get a little 'tricky' because of the number of aircraft.

Regarding Meigs, I have heard numerous stories of people having to walk to the airport there. Airport personel have to park somewhere far off in the city and have to walk to the airport. The landing fees there are something horrid, too!

I mean a place that's "welcoming" to GA and won't discriminate against us and slap us with long "holds" (the VFR form).

- Neil Harrison

User currently offlineDC-9CAPT From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (15 years 9 months 1 week 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 7001 times:

I see what you mean, now.

Okay Meiggs is out. You might want to call FBOs at Palwaukee and MDW to "get a feel" for how things are there. They are probably out in terms of fees, etc..

Kenosha, Racine, and Milwaukee are good choices north. Gary is good to the south if you can get over it being Gary. MWC would be my first choice.

If you absolutely have to be in Chicago, then re-explore Palwaukee. DuPage might be okay too--never been there.

User currently offlinePilot1113 From United States of America, joined Aug 1999, 2333 posts, RR: 11
Reply 5, posted (15 years 9 months 1 week 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 6995 times:

I just want a place that's not too far from the city. I can't rent a car as I'm 19 (even though I have a clean driving record... well, I do have one speeding ticket).

I thought MDW would be a good option. When I was there last, I remember seeing a 152 fly out of there and that was a year ago. I don't know if you have to file a flight plan or whatnot to get in there.

Thanks for your information!

- Neil Harrison

User currently offlineIainhol From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (15 years 9 months 1 week 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 6994 times:

I fly a Cessna 172 into LAX and the controllers there are great!!! You do need to know what you are doing and sound like a pro on the radio and they will treat you fine. Plan a good easy flight with a really easy to see land mark on the outer side of the airspace. For LAX I use the freeway (the 105 or 110 I think) and if I have nto been cleared into class Bravo I do not cross it! Plan you flight like you did when your where a VFR student! Read up on the airport before you go, so you know what to expect! Get class Charlie servies out of your airport so you are always speaking to socal. Make sure you are good at flying headings and altitudes as they might ask you to fly headings in busier airspace! Do not be scared when you go in act like you have done it a million times. If you can not see the airport ask for a heading, ask if it is a 12 o'clock 5 miles, they are more then happy to help you! The controllers you speak to might be speaking much faster then you are used. At LAX the Tower controller sounded more like an auctioner then a controller. You might have problems getting your call sign on the radio. At LAX we plan to chop of the last number in some one call sign to get our message in! If you a following a larger plane be careful of wake turbulance! Also maybe fly a bit faster final if you are being followed by a large airliner. When I go to LAX we are normally about 120-125 of final. And it still can be qutie close. We where happilly floating down the runway a couple weeks ago when tower said 'Cessna 152 turn of next exit please' I said 'Unable we are not on the ground yet!' Kind of funny really!
But remember you are trying to help out the other traffic but remember the safety of you flight is the most important thing to you, also do not try and help the controllers out too much, just do as they say!

User currently offlineDC-9CAPT From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (15 years 9 months 1 week 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 6991 times:

>>>>I just want a place that's not too far from the city. I can't rent a car as I'm 19 (even though I have a clean driving record... well, I do have one speeding ticket).

I won't name names here, but....

when I was getting my PPL we used to go to MDW (I was teen/early 20s) and "tie down" at a well known FBO. Like I said, it was busy there, but nothing like today. Even so, a nice smile with the receptionist and some small talk got me the keys to one of the courtesy cars (usually a crown vic, taurus, etc) no questions asked. They know you won't be going to the tavern and besides, they have your plane (or the one you signed for). I stay out of the Chicago airspace (my airline doesn't go there, and my Cherokee 140 stays away), so I haven't been there in awhile. If you choose MDW, you can score the courtesy car or catch the train to the loop for a couple hours.

User currently offlineL1011Ken From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (15 years 9 months 3 days ago) and read 6962 times:

MDW has always been friendly to me in a 172, I don't know about landing fees though, as I've always left shortly after landing there. Understand that SWA & NWA pretty much run the joint, so be prepared to wait awhile to take off sometimes. I actually had to wait almost an hour to use 13C once. It also offers the best opportunity to access the city, with the Orange Line "L" train, though it's a bit of a walk. Plan at least an hour each way to the Loop.

Meigs (CGX) is fairly friendly to GA, but they don't have radar and they do charge $20-30 landing fees. It's a georgeous approach, but a tad daunting because it's over water. Depending on traffic, it can be ten minutes to a half hour to the Loop by cab. Public transportation is not really an option there.

Palwaukee (PWK) is a great GA airport, they have a few flight schools and two FBO's. Corporate traffic can be heavy at times, but just choose an off-peak time. PWK is also fairly close to Chicago, but inaccessable by public transportation.

DuPage (DPA) is also like PWK in that there is nice mix of GA and corporate traffic, with a few FBO's. It's not as busy as PWK. It's a hike to Chicago, but a short cab ride to the West Line of Metra (commuter rail service) could have you in the Loop in about an hour. I don't think they have landing fees. The feds do have an office there, so know your stuff.

I don't know a ton about Waukegan, other than it's smaller than PWK and also lacks radar. I do believe it's closer to public trans. than DPA or PWK though.

Whichever airport you choose, enjoy Chicago.  

User currently offlinePilot1113 From United States of America, joined Aug 1999, 2333 posts, RR: 11
Reply 9, posted (15 years 9 months 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 6959 times:

Thanks L1011Ken...

I've already taken my trip to MDW. I've written a trip report about it here http://www.airliners.net/discussions/trip_reports/read.main/351/

Thanks again for your postings!  

- Neil Harrison

User currently offlineSaluki777 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (15 years 9 months 9 hours ago) and read 6941 times:

This is a little "out" of Chicago (NW suburbs), but Lake In The Hills airport is nice to fly into & out of. Non towered field. O'Hare's B floor above it is at 4,000 feet. 3CK has one 3,000' or so runway (8/26). No landing fee.


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