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Chicago Midway Class C expansion mitigated

Changes to the Class C airspace around Chicago Midway International Airport will be implemented starting June 15. Expansion of the airspace will increase safety and efficiency, but the impacts to general aviation operations will be minimized because of AOPA’s recommendations to the FAA.

Chicago Midway International Airport Class C modifications. Image courtesy of the FAA.

The change was announced in a final rule published on March 23 in the Federal Register. It extends the existing Class C airspace shelf to the east side of the airport, from the southeast counterclockwise to the northeast. The most notable change for GA pilots is the expansion that will follow the Chicago lakefront.

The purpose of modifying the airspace is to further separate arrivals to Chicago Midway’s Runway 22L and GA aircraft flying VFR along the Lake Michigan shoreline. “The FAA is taking this action to reduce the risk of midair collisions and enhance the efficient management of air traffic operations in the MDW terminal area,” the rule states.

AOPA was involved throughout the process of adjusting the proposed modifications to the existing Class C airspace surrounding Chicago Midway, first engaging in the issue as part of an ad hoc committee formed in 2020. The FAA agreed to multiple recommendations from AOPA, including an increase in the floor of the Class C over the water to 2,300 feet and changes in lateral boundaries of the outer shelf that utilize visual landmarks as reference points.

Most recently, AOPA—citing wake turbulence and traffic separation concerns—negotiated a change to the airspace modification that requires aircraft flying the visual approach to Runway 22L to remain at or above 3,000 feet until crossing the shoreline.

“Not only will this provide additional separation from VFR aircraft operating in the lakefront corridor, but it will also provide consistency with the other IFR approaches to Runway 22L,” said AOPA Director of Airspace, Air Traffic, and Security Jim McClay in the December 19 letter to the FAA.

Pilots flying along the Chicago lakefront, or in or around Chicago Midway International Airport, should familiarize themselves with the coming changes, as they are significant. Additionally, with EAA AirVenture Oshkosh—the world’s busiest aviation event—hosted shortly after the charts are updated, pilots flying to and from the event in Wisconsin should be aware of the new dimensions of the Class C.

Lillian Geil
Communications Specialist
Communications Specialist Lillian Geil is a student pilot and a graduate of Columbia University who joined AOPA in 2021.
Topics: Advocacy, Airspace Redesign

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