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CHICAGO—The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) and its airline partners have opened a new Central Deicing Facility (CDF) at O’Hare International Airport. The airport’s first dedicated deicing facility will support airlines in efficiently deicing aircraft away from the gate during snow events, thereby improving access to gates for aircraft operations during winter weather operations at O’Hare.
Constructed on the west side of O’Hare, the centralized deicing facility leverages new airfield capacity derived by ongoing modernization efforts to make way for the largest of its kind deicing facility in the U.S. and second largest in the world.
“The new centralized deicing facility is one of O’Hare’s newest and most important assets, as it promises to greatly enhance operating conditions for all of our airline partners, particularly during the winter season,” said Jamie L. Rhee, CDA Commissioner. “Coupled with our award-winning snow operations, and the ongoing investments to modernize our airfield, this new facility builds upon our commitment to improving safety and efficiency at one of the world’s busiest and best connected airports.”
The CDF will enhance safety and efficiency for more than 50 air carriers serving O’Hare by allowing planes to be deiced as close as possible to departure from the runway.
“As Chicago’s hometown airline and the first carrier at O’Hare to use the new, centralized deicing facility on a limited basis, we work together with the Chicago Department of Aviation and all of our partners to provide a safe, caring and dependable operation for our customers, regardless of the weather conditions," said Mike Hanna, United Airlines VP of O'Hare. "We know firsthand that the new deicing facility will further enable us to better serve our customers, particularly when winter weather strikes here in the Midwest.”
The 835,000-square-foot Centralized Deicing area, the size of approximately 17 football fields, consists of two major elements. The deicing pad can accommodate up to 20 narrow body airplanes or 5 wide body airplanes at a time. A four-story ramp tower allows airlines the ideal vantage point to control their individual deicing operations. This facility is also equipped with a state of the art lighting configuration that allows it to be used 24-hours a day, enhancing visibility during snow events.
“We are elated that the central deicing facility, which American first proposed more than five years ago, has come to fruition bringing major benefits for our customers and the airport as a whole,” said Franco Tedeschi, American Airlines VP – Chicago. “Our deicing team is the best in the business and takes great pride in ensuring we get customers on their way safely and quickly during Chicago’s challenging winter weather. The new deicing facility will allow us to do just that, and we thank our partners at the Chicago Department of Aviation for their shared commitment to the project.”
The CDF can be accessed by a new common-use taxiway system, Taxiway Z, connecting aircraft from the north to the south airfield. Once the aircraft is in the CDF, it will be serviced in areas dedicated to their specific airline. Airlines will have access to equipment, deicing fluid storage and other ancillary deicing functions. The project was built with sustainability features allowing for deicing runoff to be recycled.
The CDA and its airline partners first conceptualized the CDF in 2013. From start to finish, the $168 million project took 20 months to construct, and was completed on December 27, 2018. With roughly 3.5 million square feet of concrete laid, the CDF and the new taxiway system were built using approximately twice the amount of concrete used to construct O'Hare's runways. In total, the project created an estimated 800 jobs during design and construction. As with all airport capital projects, the deicing facility did not include the use of any local taxpayer dollars.
The use of similar deicing facilities at other hub airports around the world subject to winter weather conditions has been proven to be an effective, efficient and cost-effective way to manage deicing operations. The facility will not only provide significant improvements during the winter months, but also will provide operational relief to operations during inclement weather conditions year round, when aircraft may be subject to ground holds.
The CDF supports the airfield modernization efforts, called O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP), which has delivered new runways and a more than 50 percent increase to capacity since the program launched in 2001. Working with federal partners, including the FAA, the OMP has resulted in more flights in and out, new routes, better connections and fewer delays for passengers at O’Hare.
Earlier this month, O’Hare was named busiest airport in the nation for flight operations in 2018, surpassing Atlanta. In 2018, O’Hare operated more than 903,000 flight operations, and served more than 83 million passengers.
The new CDF will support O’Hare and its airline partners as the airport prepares for its biggest terminal expansion yet. The $8.5 capital program will deliver more gates, new passenger amenities, and create new economic opportunity to support the City and its future. These investments are a part of Mayor Emanuel's O'Hare 21 vision, designed to modernize facilities, expand terminal capacity, and enable O’Hare’s future growth to better connect travelers and Chicago to other parts of the world.