August 6, 2005

Chicago Midway Flight Experience

What a great flight experience I had today. I woke up early to make it out to Midway Aviators by 8am. As I drove down Cicero Avenue I heard the roar of a Southwest 737 departing Chicago Midway International Airport - the very airport I would be flying out of this morning.

The security at Midway is much more stringent than the standard uncontrolled fields I have spent so much time at. Instead of walking from my car directly to my plane, I met with Alex, my Certified Flight Instructor, at the Midway Aviators office. From there we drove to a security gate where he needed to show Midway credentials for us to have access to the flight line.

We completed the pre-flight review of the plane so next up was to start the communications with Midway ATC. First, I contacted Midway Departure Clearance. I let them know I had listened to the most current weather briefing and told them I would be departing to the south. After that, I was directed to contact Midway Ground Control who said "2-2-zulu-mike taxi to 4 left via foxtrot-kilo hold short of 4 right." A Southwest 737 was landing on 4R so we held short as directed and enjoyed watching it land right in front of us. As soon as that flight passed we expedited our taxi across 4R and made our way to our runway.

Once at runway 4L, I contacted the Midway Tower and notified them I was ready to depart. The provided me clearance to take-off and asked me to follow the runway heading on departure and to climb to 2,000. I was excited that I was able to handle all of these radio communications without difficulty. I was feeling very confident.

Once I began my takeoff roll the Diamond Eclipse did not take long to get airborne. This runway points directly at downtown Chicago so I had a great view of the city skyline in front of me and the Midway Terminal filled with 737s below and to the right. I was in heaven!

After clearing Midway airspace and flying south for a while I performed some standard practice maneuvers (slow flights, stalls, 45° banks, etc.). All of which are fun in the Diamond Eclipse. Then I performed my best landing in a while at Lansing Municipal Airport where we stopped to fuel up.

midway_final_small.jpgAfter departing Lansing we tuned the navigational devices for Midway and flew directly to the airport. The airport activity had picked up while we were gone. I was now having more difficulty listening to and deciphering the radio communications. Luckily, Alex was there to help out with many of the communications with Midway during our return so I could concentrate on landing the plane. The ATC had us fly over the airport so we could make a left turn onto the downwind leg of 4L. So as we flew over the airport we were flying directly over runway 31C which had an ATA 737 that was waiting for us to clear the airspace before departing. It was kind of fun knowing those people below were waiting for my little two seat general aviation plane to fly over before their trip could begin.

As I turned onto the downwind leg I could see a Southwest 737 coming in on final on the runway parallel to mine. As I turned us onto final for 4L we had a great view of the airport and the city and Alex was kind enough to take a photo of it for me. I think I must have been distracted by the view because my landing was not very good But, it could not put a damper on my day.

I really enjoyed flying out of Midway and my second flight in a Diamond Eclipse. I look forward to getting back out there. I uploaded a few photos from the flight to share with you.

Posted by at August 6, 2005 7:36 PM

Hi Todd,

Congratulations, sounds like a fantastic day.

What was difficult about the radio communications on the return trip -- was it the quantity and speed of communications? Is it more difficult to pick up your flight number? How will you practice this skill?

Back in the old days, planes used to have to take off into the wind. I know jets these days have way more power so that it's less critical -- in the situation of Midway would they try to give gneral aviation planes more access to runways into the wind, or would they have commerical planes have more access? What is different between how they treat them, or are they treated the same?

Congratulatoins again -- I trust there will be many more future flights.


Posted by: Similate at August 7, 2005 6:48 AM

On our return to Midway their were more aircraft landing and departing so there was frequent radio communications so it was difficult to hear what calls were for us and what were for other aircraft. I think more experience in that environment is the best way to improve. With more experience I will better be able to anticipate what the next request will be.

On Saturday the winds were from the north so Midway was using 4R, 4L, 31R and 31C. All of those takeoff into the wind when the wind is from the north, with each having a slight crosswind.

Thanks for the post!

Posted by: MyFlightBlog at August 7, 2005 10:51 PM

Sounds like a blast. Keep up the updates.

Posted by: Oblivion at August 9, 2005 8:55 AM

I have found that I really enjoy flying in and out of controlled fields, it gives you more of that "i'm a real pilot" feeling. Have fun with it!

Posted by: Jason at August 9, 2005 11:55 AM


Great experience, wasn't it? I'm glad you had such a good first flight out of Midway; as the years go by and I consider my flight training there, I realize that it provided an almost perfect base for a student or pilot who wants to feel as engaged in aviation as possible in a single-engine. Radio communication there seems overwhelming at first, but after a half dozen flights or so you get a sense of the rhythm under which Midway Tower operates. While inbound and dealing with Tower or Radar, getting your calls in requires being opportunistic; as soon as there's a break, tell 'em your plans and make it snappy. On the ground, I think it's a lot easier. Clearance/Delivery and Ground are busy, but not overwhelmed, except perhaps around 5pm on a Friday. I think any pilot who gets comfortable at Midway can confidently deal with ATC in any other airspace in the country -- Class Bs included.

The best part about flying in Midway's C airspace is the confidence that you're flying with professionals -- in the big iron on a parallel runway or at the other end of the mic. In fact, the odds are you're the only guy in the air who _isn't_ on an IFR plan.

My favorite experience as a student was a simple landing approach. As we were coming in, Tower offered us 31L or 31C. This almost never happens, and I looked at my flight instructor, Tom, shrugged, and said "Tower, 737 delta uniform, we'll take 31 center." Tower proceeded to hold short a Northwest DC-9 and cleared our 172 to land on the massive, rubber-smeared touchdown zone of Midway's primary ILS approach runway. That held flight crew must've thought we were Daley's kids or something; what Cessna gets cleared to hold up commercial traffic? They totally didn't have to do that, but sometimes they make exceptions to GA just for kicks -- yours and their own, I guess.

Hope you keep flying out of KMDW, and I hope you learn something new and have even more fun each time.

Posted by: matt Shobe at August 10, 2005 11:26 PM