Sunday, April 15, 2007

Turboprop makes repeated low passes; nonplussed runway apparently rejects them

This morning I went for a 10 mile run as part of preparation for the Indy Mini Marathon in May. (Find runner training minutiae absolutely riveting? Head to my VOX on the topic.) The run itself wasn't eventful, and conditions were nearly ideal: calm winds, sunny skies here for the first time since 1977, and a crisp 40-something temperature that made gloves necessary only for the first few miles. Neat.

But what caught my attention and wouldn't let go was a Beech King Air turboprop that seemed to be flying a racetrack pattern at low altitude above the northwest side Chicago neighborhoods I run through. It was white and blue, didn't appear to have any airline or government designation, and no, I didn't get the tail number of the truck, officer. But it was flying strange. Here's what I mean:
  • Planes don't loiter over this part of town. I live within 3 miles of O'Hare under a surface-to-10,000 feet column of tightly controlled airspace. Usually you only see commercial airliners on their way in or out of town and nothing else. As a pilot, I can tell you that this particular column is no man's land for anyone looking to futz around and sightsee. You're likely to end up with an F-16 or two as wingmen here if you don't have a reservation.
  • This guy was clearly on some mission, and appeared to be flying in an oval or circular track pattern. Again, no one does that here. They take off, they land. That's it. This close to O'Hare, no other flight operation normally makes sense.
  • Finally, I noticed he was shooting approaches to runway 22L. Repeatedly. This is a runway that doesn't see too many landings from the northeast each year, although a Lufthansa 747 did blot out the sun over my house once when it used this runway one Sunday afternoon.

    ohare.gif

    He made at least five passes that looked like approaches to 22L from the northeast, except that each one he made was just above treetop level. WAY too low to be a standard instrument approach, or even a visual approach. His gear were down every time.

I'd like to know what gives. Is this a standard test procedure of some kind for an ILS localizer suspected of faults? Anyone care to hazard an informed theory or two?

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Chicago gets the bid!

I'm psyched that Chicago got the nod from the USOC to be the USA's applicant city for the 2016 Olympic Games. I think we can do a fantastic job hosting this event (anyone remember our World Cup performance in 1994? Not too shabby) and the excitement factor for the city itself, should it get the ultimate bid, would be off the charts.

Congrats to the team that worked tirelessly, I'm sure, to build and sell the plan and to city government itself for having the guts to take a serious swing at this. A great Olympic showing for Chicago in 9 years could have a 'Barcelona Effect' — raising the city's global stature and proper recognition to great new heights. I can't wait to watch this unfold, especially since it will put enormous pressure on the CTA and hopefully Cook County Government to shape up or else. Two less well-managed entities are hard to come by, and cleaning them out from the top is slightly more likely if something like Olympic success or failure is at stake.

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