Today, Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) is the second busiest airport in the US, after Hartsfi eld- Jackson Atlanta International Airport. ORD once held the rank of the world’s busiest airport in terms of takeoffs and landings until limits were imposed by the federal government to reduce fl ight delays at ORD. O’Hare currently accounts for over a sixth of the nation’stotal fl ight cancellations.
O’Hare was ranked fourth in 2005 of the US’ international gateways, with only JFK, LAX, and MIA serving more foreign destinations. ORD has a strong international presence with fl ights to more than 60 foreign destinations. The Chicago Customs District (CCD) ranks second behind New York in terms of total metric tonnes of air freight. CCD 2006 fi gures indicate a total of 1,024 tonnes of air freight, up 5.8 percentover 2005.
China factors in as a major player. ORD handles 25 percent of all nonstop air service between the US and China. O’Hare was ranked fourth in 2005 of all US international gateways, with only JFK, LAX, and MIA servingmore foreign destinations.
Among the carriers servicing ORD with Asian connections are United Airlines, American Airlines, Air China, Atlas Air, ANA Cargo, Asiana, Cathay Pacifi c, China Airline, China Eastern, China Southern, EVA Air, Evergreen, Korean Air Cargo, JAL Cargo, NWA Cargo, Nippon Cargo, Polar Air Cargo,and Singapore Airlines Cargo.
ORD serves as the largest hub of United Airlines and the second-largest hub of American Airlines after Dallas/Fort Worth.
Large scale cargo facilities are located both on and off airport grounds with Alliance Air, the largest air cargo service company at ORD, handlingmuch of the freight.
“We handle many leading Asian carriers such as Korean, EVA Air, JAL, China Southern etc.,” says Wayne Chen, director, the Greater China region Alliance Air. “As their service provider or future business partner, we do our best to make their new operation in ORD simple and worry-free.”
Off airport is the 107,000 square foot Polar Air Cargo Building, which Alliance Air staffs 24-7 and secures around the clock monitoring videocameras.
Alliance Air‘s custom-built 176,000 square foot on-airport facility, Cargo Building 517, has an annual capacity of 374.4 million pounds and is the second largest cargo building at ORD. It has 42 docks, six main deck workstations, six scissor lifts and separate import and export roller systems. Thirty-seven video cameras provide constant monitoring of all warehouse activities and access points. It is US Customs bonded and features full electronic and videosecurity.
Alliance Air handles Japan Airlines in a second on-airport facility, Cargo Building 516. The 111,000 square foot facility houses main deck workstations used for maximum pallet build up. Each workstation has an oversized, reinforced opening and is equipped with a Web-Stiles scissor lift. Alliance Air invested over $253,800 in these workstations to facilitate build-up procedures. The building was designed specifi cally to allow fl exibility and cross utilisation of systems and space. This allows adjustments in client space demands or shiftsin import and export tonnages.
“We see the frequency of our Asian customers business increasing, and several new Asian carriers have been preparing for service between Chicago and Asian gateways, especially from China,” states Chen.
Alliance Air has maintained a solid growth every year since its inception. In 2004, Alliance Air reported handling tonnagein excess of 680 million kilos.
Ongoing at ORD is the O’Hare Modernisation Programme (OMP). Included in the OMP is a new North Air Traffi c Control Tower (NATCT) necessary for the operation of its new Runway 9L-27R. Construction on the tower is expected to be completed in 2008, reports Rosemarie S. Andolino, OMP executive director. The NATCT is necessary because air traffi c controllers cannot view the ends of new Runway 9L-27R from the primary tower due to existing airport buildings. When complete, the NATCT will stand at an overall height of 255 feet. Work on the South Airfi eld entails work to Runway10C-28C and Runway 10L.
The OMP is slated to reconfi gure O’Hare’s outdated intersecting runway confi guration into a modern parallel confi guration, substantially reducingdelays and increasing capacity.
The City of Chicago continues to strengthen trade ties with China, which will boost activity at ORD. In February this year, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley announced the opening of the Chicago Development Offi ce in Shanghai that will house the Chicago China Development Corporation (CCDC). The CCDC will help Chinese companies expand into the US and to assistChicago companies in China.
“Our new Shanghai offi ce will encourage Chinese investment in Chicago and seek new markets in China for the products and services produced by Chicago area companies,” states Mayor Daley. “Investments by Chinese companies will create jobs for the people of Chicago and will strengthen Chicago’s reputation as a global city.”
The office will also serve as a resource for Chicago’s small and medium-sized companies entering the China market, as well as large corporations that already have Chinese operations. – Karen E. Thuermer