Construction equipment movements are restricted on the airfield and orchestrated on an hour by hour basis, after months of planning in correlation with information from the air traffic control tower — especially when operating a crane on the airfield. While the movement has been allotted an operational time slot months in advance — pre-coordinated with FAA, airlines, and Department of Aviation — the final say comes from the tower the day of operation.
Airport Operations Supervisors (AOS), the Department of Aviation's OMP representation, occupy the former air traffic control tower, now the operations tower, to oversee operations and coordinate movements with FAA on a daily basis.
Explains Arman, "We have it micromanaged to the point where the crane is allowable, but [the contractors] may get a phone call from operations, who received a call from the FAA control tower stating that at 12:00 p.m. they are going to have Pacific Rim departures and the crane must be down by 11:30 a.m…. The contractor knows they're given a window of opportunity and then that crane has got to come down." Compliance is mandatory.
The tower recognizes what construction phases have been implemented and the type of work and locations necessary. It has the authority to shut down everything at a moment's notice. It's up to the OMP staff to create opportunities without impacting operations as well as to accommodate unpredictable acts of nature.
The Comair crash last August in Lexington, KY remains under investigation. The fact that Blue Grass Airport was under construction has heightened concerns at FAA, the Department of Aviation, and the media regarding operations at ORD. But this is an airport that's familiar with disruptions.
"O'Hare has had rehabilitations every season," deputy director Arman says. "If there is something the airline or FAA has a concern about — signing, lighting, striping, lamping — we incorporate it."
OMP holds weekly meetings with all parties represented to address any issues of concern. There have been instances when FAA has requested that certain types of equipment be used on the airfield and OMP has accommodated by including those stipulations in the bids.
Comments Andolino, "We try to do things landside as much as possible, keeping those movements separate as much as possible, because there is always human error and in order to prevent that you create those barriers and separation. In those cases where we can't [operate landside], we make it a priority to constantly remind the [workers] in those active areas about the priority of safety. Always be aware of your environment and do what you can to control and operate safely."
Commissioner Fernandez wouldn't comment directly on how the Comair incident had affected ORD's planning and operations as the investigation is ongoing, but she did note that "[we] have been very fortunate that the FAA has approved our construction plan, which will allow us to continue operating as we're building so that we do not abandon a runway and have to worry about redesignation. We're doing construction and the airport continues to operate."
In 2007, $1 Billion
With approximately $1 billion in contracts set to be awarded in 2007, the O'Hare Modernization Program (OMP) and the City of Chicago continue to maintain lean staffs dedicated to the program. "We've contracted out planning services, construction management, program management, designing and engineering (etc.,)" says OMP Executive Director Rosemarie Andolino.
Contracts in 2007 include:
- $50-100 million for the pavement and electrical on north airfield runway 9L/27R (awarded March 2007)
- $1-5 million for the expansion and relocation of north Low Level Windshear Alert System (LLWAS) (September)
- $50-100 million for the pavement and electrical on runway 10C/28C (November)
- $50-100 million for the construction of a FedEx replacement facility (December)
(A complete list of available 2007 contracts is available on OMP's website — www.ohare.com.)
The executive director encourages participation from any company willing to bid on the remaining 16 contracts that have yet to be awarded this year.
MP will host an open house March 21st in nearby Des Plaines where the upcoming bid packages will be discussed. "We will go through [the packages] element by element so it really gets into the nitty gritty and all the details. It really allows the opportunity for large and small contractors to meet because in many cases, there are new joint ventures or teams that are formed," says Andolino. "We like to create a forum or an opportunity for folks to network and create new partnerships."
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Management and staff at O'Hare accomplished several significant safety enhancements while safely managing the O'Hare Modernization Program (OMP), one of the largest airport construction projects in...