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O’Hare begins operating new deicing facility

19 March 2019
In-pavement LED lights direct aircraft to a specific position in the CDF. Source: City of Chicago

Chicago O’Hare International Airport has put into service a USD168 million central deicing facility (CDF), which is claimed to be the largest in the US.

The CDF encompasses 850,000 ft 2 and can accommodate up to 20 narrow-body or five wide-body aircraft at the same time.

Aircraft are directed to their individual deicing positions via a four-storey ramp tower. Jane’s was told that for the 2018–19 winter season, American Airlines and United Airlines jointly managed the facility, which includes operating the tower and co-ordinating the use of the CDF. “Going forward, the plan may change,” airport officials said. Airlines not only manage the CDF but they also own the equipment, which includes Vestergaard Elephant mobile deicers.

The CDF infrastructure was built through three contracts: mass grading by Judlau Contracting, paving and utilities by Plote Construction, and the tower was built by FH Paschen.

The CDF at O’Hare gives airlines the option to deice aircraft closer to their departure time. Aircraft can taxi to the deicing pad, complete the deicing procedures, and proceed directly to take-off. “Not only does this streamline our operations by freeing up gates, but it enhances safety during winter operations on one of the world’s busiest airfields,” O’Hare officials said.

The ground lighting system at O’Hare enables airlines to activate in-pavement LED lighting to a specific route and deicing position though a graphical user interface. However, the lighting control will be replaced with a deicing pad management system supplied by ADB SAFEGATE, which will supplement the in-pavement guidance system with message boards that are interfaced with airline flight management systems.

The CDF was built without static deicing equipment so it can accommodate different sizes and numbers of aircraft at any time. Jane’s was told that there is little time difference between deicing in the CDF as opposed to at-the-gate deicing, but operations in the CDF are safer.

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