Chicago’s Contributions to the Development of Heavier-Than-Air Flight
INTRO Chicago The World’s Flying Capital
PART ONE Octave Chanute
PART TWO The Aero Club of Illinois
PART THREE First Aeroplane Flights Over Chicago
PART FOUR Chicago to Springfield
PART FIVE 1911 Aviation Meet
PART SIX Dirigibles
PART SEVEN 1912 Gordon Bennett Race
PART EIGHT Municipal Airport (Midway)
PART NINE 1930 National Air Races and Aeronautical Exposition
PART TEN 1933 American Air Race
PART ELEVEN 1937 Amelia Earhart
PART TWELVE Northerly Island Airport (Meigs Field)
Chicago Tribune, May 8, 1926
Four carrier pigeons, each carrying a tiny packet of paper, will flutter up from the new city aviation field ay 3 p.m. today, circle a time or two to gain their bearings, and fly rapidly to the east.
The birds will bear to officials in Washington, D.C., messages that Chicago, celebrating the opening of its flying terminal at 63d street and Cicero avenue, has taken the initial step toward becoming a center for air navigation.
A few minutes after the release of the pigeons a new Curtiss plane, christened “Miss Chicago,” will roar down a runway lined with spectators and take off. Its flight will be the first officially made from the new field by a commercial ship.
Used an Air Mail Plane.
The plane, owned by the National Air Transport company, will be one of a fleet of ten to be used by the Chicago corporation in carrying mail between Chicago and Dallas Tex., via Moline, Davenport, Rock Island, St. Joseph, Kansas City, Wichita, Oklahoma City, and Fort Worth.
Although previous plans had set the opening of the municipal field in July, the date was advanced to today in order to accommodate the craft used in the new mail service. Another celebration, however, will be held in July.
Final arrangements for the ceremonies today were completed last night by Maj. P. G. Kemp, chairman of the Chicago aero commission, and officials of the N.A.T. Everything is in readiness at the field, it was reported.
Prominent Speakers Listed.
Speakers will include William R. Dawes, president of the Association of Commerce, Postmaster Arthur C. Lueder, John J. Mitchell Jr., treasurer of the N.A.T., and Ald. Dorsey Crowe (42nd), chairman of the city council committee on city planning. Maj. Kemp will preside.
Following the speeches will come the release of the pigeons, which have been supplied by the U.S. Naval air station at Anacostia, D.C. Their messages will be from Mayor Dever to the secretary of war; Mr. Dawes to the secretary of commerce; and Mr. Lueder to the postmaster general.
Miss Marguerite Foster, 15 year old daughter of George B. Foster, chairman of the Association of Commerce will christen the ship. The pilot will be Edmund Matucha.
Regular Service Monday.
Regular mail service on the N.A.T. route will start at 5′;45 a.m. next Wednesday upon the arrival of the overnight postoffice flyer from New York. The cargo of letters and packages will reach Dallas at 5:35 p.m. Northbound mail will make the trip to Chicago by 7:30 p.m. in time to connect with the overnight flyer bound east.
The National Air Transport corporate plane, christened Miss Chicago, is shown taking off with a load of mail for Dallas, Tex., yesterday at the opening ceremonies of city’s new air field at 63d street and Cicero avenue. City leaders hailed the event as opening a new chapter in Chicago’s development.
Chicago Tribune, December 14, 1927
BY JAMES DOHERTY.
Air, water, rails, hard roads together make Chicago the transportation center of the country, and therefore in a series of events yesterday the “I Will” spirit was displayed regarding aviation.
Manufacturers of this state were here last night, the mayors of cities from all over the country were here, and together they talked aviation.
It was Mayor William Hale Thompson who linked the means of transportation into one subject. The visiting mayors were his guests; together they were the guests of the manufacturers. It was the second day of the airport conference, the second day of Aviation week—and it was flying weather only for a Lindbergh.
In spite of that the municipal air field at Cicero avenue and 63d street was dedicated yesterday. The weather did not prevent the parade of more than a thousand flag draped automobiles to that field. Nor did it stop the mayor’s speech.
The Aviation Future.
The air conference was in session until noon, when it adjourned to greet Gene Tunney and take part in a reception in the mayor’s office. Anoton J. Cermak, president of the south park board made short talks about cooperation in making Chicago a great aviation center.
In the evening the Illinois Manufacturers’ association devoted the entire session to the business of manufacturing, flying and making profits from airplanes. Merrill C. Meigs presided.
Mayor Thompson said Chicago’s message to the visiting mayors was:
Go home and do as we have done today; create a landing field. To me the crux of aviation lies in landing fields and then more landing fields. We have just built one and Mr. Kelly of the south park board is building another.
Chicago as Air Center.
We like to boast that we have a train coming into Chicago every sixty seconds. We will certainly be able to boast when we have an airplane arriving every sixty seconds.
We have accomplished a great good for Chicago, Illinois and the Mississippi valley in getting congressional authority to open the deep waterway from the lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. We are making great strides with roads and we must make great strides in the air.
The manufacturers were warned that St. Louis, Detroit, and other cities are seeking to take away Chicago’s natural supremacy as the air center of the country. William P. MacCracken Jr., assistant secretary of commerce, mentioned the danger, and Col. Paul Henderson, chairman of the mayor’s aero commission and general manager of the National Air Transport company, told what is being done by and for Chicago. Col. Henderson predicted that in 10 years there would be 50,000 miles of airways in daily use over North America.
C. M. Keys, president of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor company, added the prediction that Chicago would be the hub of this gigantic new transportation system.
Chicago Municipal Airport, 1927
As proposed at the Chicago Airport Conference
December 12-15, 1927, Hotel Sherman
MAYOR THOMPSON DEDICATES CHICAGO’S NEW MUNICIPAL AIRPORT.
The mayor as he appeared in one of the planes that were on the field at Cicero avenue and 63dstreet. He is talking to County Commissioner John W. Jaranowski.
Meets Demand for Speed.
“Air transportation,” Col. Paul Henderson said, “depends for its success wholly on the fact that it offers more speed than any other commercial medium. Although railroad service has been speeded up until it has reached a point that would have been incredible a few years ago, there still is a demand for still faster movement of letters, passengers and freight. The airplane alone can fill this need.”
Mr. Keys in his address went into the history of airplane building and traced that business up to the present. He asserted that a trade war comparable to that among the automobile concerns was now on the airplane field, and that “the survival of the fittest” would be determined in 1928.
“The volume of the aircraft industry, if one includes pilots, mechanics and employes in all branches, as well as the creation and maintenance of equipment, will reach $73,000,000 annually,’ Mr. Keys declared. “Maybe it would double that. But all branches of the business are speculative. It is an alluring field for the kind of money that is risked in the hope of huge returns.”
Predicts World Air Transit.
Earlier in the day Mr. McCracken declared in a speech before the Rotary club that a development of the near future would be international air lines linking the entire world.
Officials of the weather weather bureau conferred with executives of the flying companies yesterday morning. It was agreed that more frequent bulletins from the business would aid flyers greatly. Technical directors asserted that meteorological problems were more puzzling than any mechanical difficulties in flying.
Prof. Charles F. Marvin, chief of the federal wether bureau, promised that data would be issued at six hour intervals rather than at twelve, as at present. Improved service had been delayed, he said, because of misunderstandings as to what flyers wanted from the government.
A special forecasting station will be established at the municipal airport, 63d street and Cicero avenue, in the near future, Prof. Marvin stated.
Chicago Tribune April 7, 1929
All Airlines Lead to Chicago
This map of the principal air transport lines of the country shows Chicago’s preeminence as the natural aviation center of America.
Main lines operating in and out of Chicago, with their equipment and routine business, are indicated on the map by numbers. as follows:
① National Air Transport. New York-Chicago-Dallas: 6 tri-motored cabin planes: 30 single motors. Passengers and mall.
② Universa! Air Lines, Chicago to Cleveland. Twin Cities. St. Louis, Kansas City and Omaha; 8 tri-motors; 12 single motored planes. Passengers and mail.
③ Boeing Air Transport, Chicago to San Francisco and the west coast: 4 tri-motored planes: 29 single motored. Passengers and mail.
④ Embry-Riddle Co., Chicago to Cincinnati; 8 single motored planes. Passengers and mail.
⑤ Northwest Airways. Chicago to Twin Cities and to Green Bay. Wis.; 2 tri-motors; 3 single motors. Passengers and mail.
⑥ Stout Air Lines. Chicago to Detroit; 3 tri-motored planes. Passengers only.
⑦ Thompson Aeronautical Corp., Chicago to Bay City and Muskegon; 4 single motored planes. Mail only.
⑧ Western Air Express. Los Angeles and San Francisco by rail and air to New York wIth air transfer junctions to Chicago at several points. Equipment not completed as this page went to press. Passengera and mail.
⑨ Interstate Airlines, Inc., Chicago to Atlanta, Ga.; 4 aingle motored planes. Passengers and mail.
Other colored lines indicate commercial and mail airplane routes in other sections.
Municipal Airport Terminal
THE MUNICIPAL AIRPORT,
WHERE WINGED CRUISERS COME AND GO
Chicago As the Hub of the Transcontinental Air Lines
BY WALTER WRIGHT
Superintendent of Parks, Recreation and Aviation
UNCHALLENGED as a railroad center, Chicago has within the last few years, and with the development of commercial aviation, which she has done much to encourage, become the hub of the transcontinental airlines which have spread their amazing network over the United States.
Air-conscious Chicagoans today regard St. Louis, Minneapolis, Detroit, and Cleveland, if not as suburbs, at least as near neighbors, within a few hours’ hop of their doors. It is nothing at all out of the ordinary to have lunch in Chicago and dinner in New York.
Air lines radiate from Chicago in all directions. Powerful beacons guide the mail and passenger planes to the city, and the Lindbergh beacon scouring with its silver beam a circle with a 5OO-mile radius, nightly beckons the winged cruisers to the Nation’s air capital.
To those who have not as yet realized how rapidly and how completely the new form of transportation has captured the public imagination, a visit to the new air terminal passenger station at the Municipal Airport will be a revelation. At no other station in the world do more regularly scheduled mail and passenger planes arrive than at this, and from no other station do as many planes depart on scheduled flights.
The white, monolithic concrete depot, with its modernistic lines and comfortable appointments, the busy ticket office, the click of telegraph instruments, the attendant redcaps, the announcement of departures by the loud speaker, and even the illuminated weather maps, all give one an impression of progress and make him realize that he is living on the threshold of a new age, an age of modern transportation.
While waiting for his plane to take off, the passenger may hear the drone of motors overhead, while out of the clouds drops a carrier from New York or San Francisco. The door is opened, and the new arrivals step down, receive their hand baggage, and pass through the gates, while a compartment in one of the wings is let down, and the mail is transferred to a truck. The landings are made so quietly and with so little bustle and confusion that it seems impossible that the planes could have come from such distances and without adventure.
The immense hangars at the Airport not only house the resident planes, but also the shops where the planes are daily inspected and kept in perfect trim. Here too will be observed the radio and control tower, through which the field can talk to flying pilots; and the radio beacon which guides ships safely into port no matter what the weather. Everywhere is evident the combined official watchfulness of city, state, and federal government, which assures the air-traveling public of the highest degree of safety and comfort, combined with speed.
Municipal Airport, 1929
Chicago Aerial Survey Co.
Chicago’s Municipal Airport is today the busiest airport in the world. It has outstripped even such older and world-famous ports as Croyden, Le Bourget, and Templehof, serving respectively London, Paris, and Berlin. It has outstripped them in the number of daily scheduled flights as well as in the number of passengers and amount of air mail carried. Thus Chicago has reached in the air that supremacy it holds in railroad transportation.
The Airport is under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Parks, Recreation, and Aviation, of which Col. A. A. Sprague, Commissioner of Public Works, is the director. It occupies an area of approximately one square mile, from 55th to 63d streets, and from Cicero avenue to Central avenue. It is situated nearer the heart of the city it serves than any other airport of its class, and lies entirely within the city limits. It is readily accessible by four main traffic arteries, and by two surface hues. By bus or taxicab, it is about a half hour’s ride from the Loop. The field is splendidly illuminated for night flying, with beacons, flood lights, boundary and hazard lights. Its four oiled cinder runways, in total length more than two miles, offer a perfect landing surface for planes of any size under any load. The new concrete taxi runway, a mile and a quarter long on two sides of the field, makes both clean and rapid the arrival and departure of the many ships in and from the loading zone.
The immense volume of activity at this airport can be appreciated when it is known that there are twelve lines operating forty different routes on daily schedule. Eighty planes a day leave or arrive at this port on regular schedule, and an average of twenty more independent planes arrive and depart each day. The combined total mileage of scheduled flights arriving and leaving Chicago totals over 44,000 miles daily.
Municipal Airport, 1929
Chicago Aerial Survey Co.
Speed has made the great success of air travel—speed with safety and comfort. When one can travel from Chicago to Cleveland in approximately three hours, spend practically a day there for business and return home in the evening, at a cost which is approximately the railroad fare plus lower berth, the future can readily be seen.
With the constant use and further development of radio in connection with flying, the safety of the passenger will be assured as in no other mode of travel.
With this swift progress Chicago is keeping step. Scattered about the Chicago area in Cook county and two adjacent counties are a score of commercial and privately owned airports, including a municipal seaplane base and a military combination airport and seaplane base. Plans are under way for the establishment of a landing field on an island off the lake front within five minutes’ ride of the Loop. This field, beautifully landscaped to conform to the adjacent park area, would accommodate land planes, amphibians, and sea planes. Planes arriving at and departing from this field would use the present Municipal Airport as a base, where every facility is at hand for housing, inspection, and repairs.
With this prospect in view, Chicago will have ample justification for her claim to being the transportation center of America.
United Air Lines which maintains general headquarters at Chicago for its Transcontinental, Middle West, Intermountain and Pacific Coast Lines, which fly more than one million miles per month, mostly with multi-engined passenger mail-express planes
1933 promotional film of American Airways that has several scenes of Chicago.
AIRPLANE PULLMAN-Two interior views of a passenger compartment as it appears by day and, at right, as it appears by night. The plane is said to be as ful1y equipped as any railroad sleeping car.
Chicago Tribune, December 22, 1929
An air view of the grounds at 63rd Street and Cicero Avenue show the new $100,000 union terminal building and other improvements in which $774,000 had been invested. Chicgao Mayor Anton Cermak spoke and was presented with the state license by Maj. Reed G. Landis, chairman of the state aeronautics commission on Nov. 15, 1931.
Read about the 1933 American Air Races that took place at the Municipal Airport on July 1 through 4, 1933.
Chicago Tribune May 12, 1938
City engineers yesterday began reconsideration of plans for enlarge. ment of Chicago’s airport. They stud- ied a compromise proposal, first made by Mayor Kelly, to move the Chicago and Western Indiana railroad tracks from the present right of way bisect- ing tho available landing area to a new position still on the field but adjacent to the northern boundary, which then would be 55th street. The tracks now follow the line of 59th street.
After reviewing the obstacles which have arisen during the last ton days to proposals that the tracks De moved entirely off the airport, the engineers decided that the suggestion of Mayor Kelly was worthy of more attention. Although the tracks would remain on the airport they would be so placed that the city would, virtually, have its mile square field.
School Board Owns Land.
The mayor s program calls for the deeding by the school board of a strip 100 feet in width and just south of 55th street to the railroad in return for the existing right of way. This would open up the field from Its pres- ent 300 acres south of the 59th street tracks to an area of about 600 acres. All the airport land Is owned by the board of education.
Bureau of air commerce experts have pointed out that a line of hang- ars and other buildings Is to be con- structed along 55th street anyway, and that the presence of the tracks there would not be any added hazard. Furthermore, the 100 foot strip would deduct so little from the length of the runways that It would not be noticeable by pilots of the big com- mercial air liners which will begin using the field this year.
Easy Plan to Arrange.
The school board already has as- sured Mayor Kelly that it will take any steps to aid the city in solving its acute airport problems. The transfer of title for the two strips would be accomplished easily, school board lawyers have announced. The ex- change with the C. & W. I. would in- crease the value of the airport tract by removing the right of way which has divided it into two pieces for so long, they hold.
Only one objection to this plan has been raised. The engineers say that an expensive grade crossing ultimate- ly would have to be constructed at 55th street and Cicero avenue if the C. & W. 1. tracks are laid along the northern edge of the airport.
Instead of a simple bridge over, or tunell under the tracks, a four leaf clover crossing with ramps to route trafic from 55th street to Cicero ave- nue and vice versa would have to be built.
No. 1 marks present route of the Chicago and Western Indiana railroad tracks at the edge of the present airport and bisecting the airport property; No. 2 marks proposed route for the tracks, out of the center of the field but still on the airport property, and No. 3 marks Indiana-Harbor Belt railroad tracks. The white circle shows where grade crossing project will increase cost of airport improvement if tracks are laid parallel to 55th street.
Southtown Economist, March 9, 1941
Worthy of serious reflection and thorough consideration from all possible angles is the proposal for the construction of a rock tunnel to provide electrical transportation between the Municipal airport and the Loop with a rapidity that would shave anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes off the time now required to make the transfer.
One of the arguments advanced for a lake front airport is it would enable passengers to transfer between plane and hotel in something like 20 minutes sooner than is now possible from the airport.
While readily agreeing that most people who fly do so because of the time-saving involved, the inalterable fact remains that nobody would want to risk his life to save 20 minutes, no matter how pressing his hurry. An airport at the lake front would provide such a risk. Joshua D’Esposito, proposer of the rock-tunnel plan, correctly pointed out that prevailing winds in Chicago come from the west and southwest which would necessitate landing and taking off toward the tall buildings lining Michigan ave. It was also pointed out that the 3,500-foot run way is planned when the lake-front airport was first broached would already be too small for the huge, modern planes.
Runways at the Municipal airport are all more than a mile in length and some of them. as soon as projects scheduled for this year are completed, will be over 8.000 feet in length. This is almost three times as long as the runways planned for the lake front.
The Municipal airport is as safe as modern science, ingenuity and maintenance can make it. It is at least the equal in this respect of any other airport in the world. Why, then. even consider possibilities of moving? Because, as we said, in this age of speed and more speed when less than four hours are required to fly from New York to Chicago there are some people who feel too much time is required for travel between the airport an the Loop.
This drawback would be solved with the construction of the rock tunnel. The tunnel
would follow the geoItletric theorem that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points and would run under Archer ave. to the airport after leaving the Loop.
The tunnel would be 100 feet underground and slowly rise until at the airport it would be but 30 feet underground. Electrical transportation would be used at speeds of 60 to 70 miles an hour. This means that no more than 10 minutes would be required to travel from the airport terminal to Congress st. and Michigan ave. The transfer probably couldn’t be made that quickly to that point from a lakefront terminal.
One might consider that the cost of constructing such a tunnel would be prohibitive. Mr. Esposito’s figures revealing that it would cost between $7,000,000 and $8,000000 are surprisingly low considering the value of the project.
If the proposal is adopted and the tunnel constructed it would provide rapid transportation to the Loop without losing any of the safety features of landing that are now present at the Municipal airport. It would also facilitate the transfer of air mail from the post office to the airport and it would go far toward speeding up the transfer of freight consignments. Viewed from any angle, the proposal has ments and values which merit favorable consideration.
Chicago Tribune, May 1, 1941
BY WAYNE THOMIS.
An exchange of legal papers between city representatives and officials of the Chicago and Western Indiana railroad yesterday gave Chicago title to a strip of land that has been a barrier since 1931 to enlargement of the city airport.
The strip of land, approximately 75 feet wide and a mile long, was until yesterday a C. & W. I. right of way. A double line of tracks and an embankment still are on it. Today, during ceremonies in which railroad, city and aviation officials will join, work crews will commence tearing away these obstructions and joining the two halves of what soon will be a mile square landing field.
Old Tracks Bisected Field.
The airport area now available is bounded by 55th and 63d streets, Cicero and Central avenues. The old right of way cut this in half along the line f 59th street. The city bought a new right of way in line with 54th street—200 yards outside the airport’s northern boundary—and built new railway tracks which the C. & W. I. accepted in exchange for the old.
Today’s ceremonies will include the driving of a golden spike by Mayor Kelly—to signify completion of the new tracks—and the removal of the test track and cross tie from the old tracks. The railroad will run a special train over the new tracks and serve luncheon to 150 guests.
The title transfers yesterday took place in the office of Benjamin C. Kilpatrick, vice president of the American National Bank and Trust company.
Photodiagram of the Chicago airport, a mile square section of land, showing how removal of tracks will double the present size and add runways. In the foreground is the new section and in the background is the present field.
Completion Set for June 1.
Later at the city hall Mayor Kelly said enlargement of the airport should be completed by June 1. Both halves of the field are already equipped with concrete runways, drainage, landing lights, and fencing.
The northwest-southeast runway, longest of all, is 7,226.5 feet in length. The northeast-southwest runway is 7,047.3 feet long. These will be the longest hard surfaced runways available on any airline terminal field in the United States. Both these long diagonal runways are supported by parallel strips, each of which is over a mile long.
The dual east-west runways are each 5,211 feet long and the dual north-south runways are each 5,263 feet long. In addition there is one short, mortheast-southwest runway 3,816 feet long.
A crowd gathers around Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly (not visible) as he drives a golden spike to complete the new railroad tracks on May 1, 1941, which made it possible for Chicago Municipal Airport to expand
United Airlines Office
5959 S. Cicero
Chicago Tribune, March 3, 1948
For the first time in its 32 year history Chicago airport at 55th and Cicero av. will have a first class restaurant with the preview tonight of Marshall Field’s new coffee shop and dining room in the central tower section of the administration building. The new eating place will be open to the public Friday.
Mayor Kennelly, W. A. Patterson, president of United Air Lines, and Field company officials will speak briefly at dinner after a cocktail party and inspection tour of the premises. It will be attended by representatives of all the air carriers serving Chicago, State st. executives and civic leaders. The mayor is scheduled to snip a ribbon across the entrance to the restaurant to symbolize the opening.
Cost Near $600,000
In keeping with the restaurant interior motif of air suspension and flight, Field’s has flown to Chicago virtually all the fine viands to be served tonight. These include strawberries from California, mushrooms from Oregon, new potatoes from Bermuda, avocados from Florida, celery and asparagus from the Imperial valley of California, and crab meat from Seattle.
After promising in contracts with the city to spend $360,000 on the eating places at the field, Marshall Field & Co. actually spent nearly $600,000 including building the second floor dining room beneath the control tower and installing the coffee shop, pastry kitchen, main kitchen and storage rooms in the rambling administration structure.
This statement was made to city officials by Austin T. Graves, vice president and operating manager for the store a few days ago.
The Cloud Room
Called Cloud Room
Visitors to the new restaurant may be inclined to flinch when they enter the door because the one decorative item in the sculpture room—a mobile structure—hangs just overhead. Its three sheet brass airfoil sections are in motion constantly, in ever-changing cycles. .
The second floor dining room is to be known as the Cloud room. Its west wall, overlooking the air field, is glass. The view on the field is excellent and with the movement of aircraft into and out of the airport provide a live mural.
The remaining walls are gray with gray drapes, the ceiling is white, and carpet is gray-green. Upholstery on the chairs and on banquettes around the room is red leather. Lighting is indirect. The coffee shop, on the first floor, is done in blue and yellow, and its west wall, also glass, opens upon the airport.
The pastry bakery, the kitchens—one on each floor—and the storage and refrigeration rooms in the basement are brightly lighted with strong fluorescent tubes. Stainless steel is used thruout for walls and equipment. Working quarters and both restaurants are air conditioned.
The dining room has 220 seats and coffee shop 100. The architect for the restaurant was Alfred Shaw and the interior decoration was supervised by John Moss Jr. director od design and display for Field’s
March 21, 1948
Chicago Tribune, February 19, 1949
BY RITA FITZPATRICK
A visitor leans against the airport fence peering into the murky night.
“Guess there won’t be anything coming in tonight,” he remarks knowingly to a companion, “Looks too bad.”
The amateur airman isn’t far wrong. It is a “low” night. The weather observers’ office on the airport has reported to the control tower a visibility of only three-quarters of a mile and a ceiling of 300 feet. An expert sits in the radio loft, his eyes glued to a little blip of light on the screen of his radar scope, while his voice drones on uninterruptedly. He is directing the little pip of light. He is talking a pilot down.”
Out Of The Night.
Soon the throbbing sound of a plane circling can be heard over the airport. It is a weird, almost other-world sound in the muffled haze of the night. No plane can be seen.
“Hey, look!” the spectator on the ground cries as a spot of light can be seen suddenly at the other end of the field and then, out of the mist, a flash of silver, like a giant fish, emerges in the glare of great lights, gliding, low and loud, perfectly aligned with the runway, motors humming with the prospect of a smooth landing. The plane settles confidently on the runway and ambles almost swaggers, to the door of the terminal where it disgorges passengers.
“Well, what do you know about that!” the onlooker exclaims, “Ain’t that something!”
Miracles, no matter whether they become almost every day occurrences, are always startling. That is why the airport in cloudy or clear weather, in rain, snow, sunshine, fog or smog, is the most exciting spot in Chicago. It is a vast 620 acre theater where progress is silhouetted in the limelight to the symphonic accompaniment of roaring motors and the ballet movements of graceful, gleaming aircraft.
No museum or park in the city attracts so many visitors annually. Night after night, winter, spring, summer or fall, hundreds of cars are parked outside the airport and young folks and old line the fence to watch the great ships, like whales with wings, come and go thru the skies. Many walk the long, outdoor promenade that borders the upper floors of the terminal building and feel themselves one with space. Last year, 2,687,975 visitors, just visitors, not counting passengers, thronged to airport.
Not the largest airport in the world, it is the busiest, the hub of the nation’s air transportation, in the peak period of the day, which varies from morning to late afternoon, and has been between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. lately, a plane takes off and another lands every two minutes. No matter how often, a ship slips over the fence and rolls along the runway, or one lifts its great bulk into the air, the thrill is still there.
Here on land that was swamp and truck gardens not more than 23 years ago, 221,552 planes landed and took off last year, air line passenger planes, cargo ships, military craft, sightseeing ships, and private planes. The ships of 11 major air lines fly in and out carrying passengers from all over the world. Those massive chargers of the sky, the Constellation, the DC-4 and the DC-6, and the twin-engined workhorse, the DC-3, and the Martin 202 and the Consolidated 240, last year made 129,598 landings and takeoffs, carrying 2,429,082 passengers.
This terrific air traffic is made possible by the airport’s dual system of runways, parallel runways in eight different directions covering almost a square mile. These eight runways, parallel in pairs, permit an airplane to take off or land at 16 different points, as landings and take-offs are made as nearly into the wind as possible. With this runway layout, more than one plane can land or take off at the same time.
Pioneers Many Devices.
Chicago was the pioneer in the dual runway system. For that matter, it has pioneered in mechanical equipment and devices so today it is the only major commercial airport that boasts having at the same time GCA, which is ground control approach, or radar; ILS, or instrument landing system; high intensity runway lights, e=radio range and dual runways in al directions.
The high intensity lights which were installed recently have been seen as far away as 30 miles. Each light, and there are 60 on the runway, can be turned to 100,000 candlepower, brighter than daylight.
From their glassed-in octagonal perch, the control tower atop the recently completed modernistic terminal building, a staff of 25 eagle-eyed men, all rated civil aeronautics administration controllers, under the direction of Norman (Huck) Smith, chief airport traffic controller, constantly scan the sky and the ground. They maintain a listening watch on several radio receivers, and transmit vital information to pilots relative to the wind direction and velocity, the runway in use, and the landing and take-off sequence. Theirs is the responsibility to keep air and groind traffic moving swiftly and safely.
Chicago Municipal Airport Terminal
Twin Radar Scopes.
The sound “tower to pilot, tower to pilot,” is a refrain that has its own peculiar music here.
Beneath the tower is the radio loft, where most of the actual radio receiving and sending sets are installed. Behind a drawn curtain in a darkened corner are twin radar remote scopes giving off an eerie light. The scopes can spot an aircraft anywhere within the vicinity of the city and are used by the controllers to “talk down” planes on instrument. No winder the Chicago airport is the safest as well as the busiest in the country!
“Busy” seems such a mild word to apply to this roaring square mile of land and milling terminal, where all hours of the day and night men and women come out iof the sky or fly into it, intent on their own adventures.
New Terminal In Use.
The airport has outgrown itself several times. The old administration building at 63d and Cicero av., originally built at a cost of $90,000, became inadequate to accommodate the international throng that filed thru its doors. Ground was broken for a new terminal building on Decoration day, 1945, but it was not until March of last year that the final finishing touches were completed on the $1,700,000 structure.
Functional and modernistic of pre-cast concrete blocks, the terminal is unique in its way. Designed by Paul Gerhardt, city architect, it is a U-shaped building that allows nine of the 11 major air lines using the field to have their own lobbies, reception rooms, ticket offices, departure gates, receiving and loading points. Its construction was supervised by Raymond Brownell, airport engineer, who directed construction of American landing fields in France and Germany.
One of the features of the new terminal, enjoyed by both passengers and visitors, is a beautiful restaurant called the Cloud room which was opened last March on the second floor by Marshall Field & Co. A huge dining room 6,000 square feet in area, it is decorated so subtly as to give a feeling of space and intimacy at the same time.
The Cloud Room
A Living Mural
Three walls are soft gray with gray drapes. The ceiling is white and the carpet gray-green. Vicid in the indirect lighting are the scarlet leather chairs and banquettes. Most spectacular of all, however, is the entire west wall of glass thru which diners see the landing and departure of all planes. The symmetrical runway pattern and the silver ships make a breathtaking living mural.
For those who have no time to put their heads in the Cloud room, there is a delightful coffee shop just below on the first floor. Decorated in pleasant aqua blue and mild yellow, it accommodates 100 persons. Here seen every day are the prettiest girls in the nation, trim air line hostesses in their neat, attractive uniforms, and handsome air line pilots.
The advent of the Cloud room and the coffee shop is said to have given the Chicago airport the finest eating facilities of any airport in the country,
World Of Its Own.
This is a peculiar world of its own, this square mile of land rented by the airport from the board of education. On it are 19 great, yawning hangars, some whose roofs have a span of almost 300 feet; a post office, a weather bureau, a civil aeronautics administration building, a new airport fire building equipped with the most modern aviation fire fighting apparatus, a graveyard for old abandoned planes called “the bone yard,” an air militia headquarters, and, believe it or nor, a public school, the Hale. The latter is deemed somewhat of a hazard, not to planes, but to the education of its young pupils. Airport authorities and parents are seeking to have the school removed so that the drone of passing planes will not distract the modern youngsters who can recognize the hum of a Constellation quicker than they can the date Christopher Columbus discovered America.
uSeveral of the air lines furnish guide service for groups around the airport, among them the American Airlines and the United Air Lines, information concerning the tours may be obtained by calling the companies. There is adventure for the asking.
Music To Their Ears.
The Chicago airport, like the Chicago Orchard airport and the lake front airport, is under the supervision of Oscar E. Hewitt, commissioner of public works, John A. Casey, who among other things is a licensed mechanic, radio man and commercial pilot, directs the airport as supervisor of operations and airports. His immediate assistant is Pat Dunne, a rated flying officer and lieutenant colonel in the war, who operates as air traffic co-ordinator and safety director.
“Listen to that hum,” Dunne remarked yesterday as a plane swooped over his office so loudly as to seem to be right in the room, “That’s real music, isn’t it?”
Music, yes, but certainly sad music to a group of men who placed the dedicatory plaque, just inside the center door on the left hand side reads:
Dedicated in honor of Chicago airmen who served their country in World War II, and in memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice, 1941-1945, The Air Corps Fathers Club of Chicago.
The airport is many things to many people.
The Coffee Shop
Feb. 19, 1949
Chicago Tribune, September 26, 1949
The Chicago Aero commission has proposed the name, Chicago Midway airport, for what is now generally called the Municipal airport. This is an admirable suggestion if only because there are at present three city-owned airfields. all of them properly describable as municipal.
“Municipal” is a clumsy word. often mispronounced, and frequently associated with such uninspirIng objects as garbage dumps, dog pounds, and sewer systems. It was a sound instinct which prompted the community years ago to give the name of Navy pier to what had formerly been called the Municipal pier by some and the Munlcipial pier by many.
Chicago Midway airport is a fine name. It is accurately descriptive of the city’s position at the hub of the natlonts airways. At the same time it recalls the great victory at Midway, unquestionably the decisive battle in the war against Japan and therefore one of the decisive battles in world history.
It is a battle of whIch Americans can be especially proud, for this was no cheaply won victory, nor was it an admiral’s victory. For the most part, the admirals didn’t know what was going on. The battle was won by the skill and resourcefulness, and matchless devotion and courage of American hIgh school and college boys who had volunteered for flying duty.
A more suitable name than Midway airport could not be found, for it is both descriptive and inspiring.
Chicago Tribune, December 6, 1949
The city council aviation committee will recommend to the full council on Monday, that Chicago airport at 55th st and Cicero av. be renamed Chicago Midway airport, it was indicated yesterday.
The committee discussed the proposal at yesterday’s meeting and took it under advisement, but tentative plans were made for an executive meeting within a few days to act on the matter. An informal poll showed a sizable majority of committee members favored the change which was proposed by the Chicago aero commission.
A bird’s-eye view of Trans World Airlines’ new $2.5 million dollar hangar, recently completed at Chicago’s Midway Airport. The hangar was officially dedicated on Friday, January 23, 1953. The double-span structure, which took nearly a year to build, can house four 4-engine Lockheed Constellations or six twin-engine Martin planes.
Source: Chicago Department of Aviation and Federal Aviation Association
Source: Chicago Department of Aviation and Federal Aviation Association
The 21st Century
Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is the fifth busiest airport in the world, establishes Chicago as a major transportation hub, just as Midway did in the 1930’s. Midway was ranked 28th out of the 35 major airports with 249,913 takeoffs and landings in 2012. That represents a slight decrease from a total of 255,227 in 2011. At the same time, the Chicago Department of Aviation recently announced Midway had reached a milestone with the highest number of passengers in its 85-year history.
Departing passengers at Midway reached 9.67 million in 2012, compared to a previous high of 9.5 million in 2004.