The Chicago Tribune this morning reported that the President plans a visit home early next month. But as I mentioned earlier, it's not clear what effects this will have on area aviation:
Aides declined to comment on Obama's February schedule, but a source close to him said he could make his first presidential visit to Chicago as early as Presidents' Day weekend, when his daughters have a three-day break from school.
... In Chicago, the best bet for an Air Force One landing is O'Hare International Airport. Midway Airport and Gary/Chicago International Airport could also be options, especially if a smaller-than-normal plane is used to transport the president.
During the campaign, Obama almost exclusively used Midway, a location that offered a 20-minute commute to his home in the Hyde Park/Kenwood neighborhood.
But Midway's longest runway is just 6,522 feet, barely long enough for the Boeing 757 that served as his general election campaign plane. The two 747s typically deployed as Air Force One are considerably larger and heavier.
Actually, a 747 can land just fine at Midway or Gary—or Chicago Executive, for that matter. When a 747 lands, it weighs considerably less than when it takes off, and it's moving considerably slower. That's the problem: once a 747 lands at an airport without a runway longer than about 7,000 feet, that airplane isn't leaving.
Under perfect circumstances, a 747-8 needs only 5,500 feet of runway to take off or land. But "perfect" means an empty airplane on a cold day with a good headwind. Landing and takeoff performance degrade quickly under other circumstances. On a mild Chicago spring day with a modestly-loaded airplane, the distances jump to 7,000 or 8,000 feet quickly.
The Air Force, however, has a solution, which no one else seems to have considered:
When Obama was last in Chicago on Jan. 4, he departed from Midway on a military plane equivalent to a 757. That plane has been used as Air Force One and has also transported vice presidents, first ladies and members of Congress.
Duh. The 757 was designed for short runways.
So now we only have to worry about the traffic jams his motorcade will cause...