O'Hare International Airport is getting a $5.5 million (euro4.7 million) upgrade to its navigation equipment that will help reduce flight delays during bad weather, averting backups that affect 40 percent of U.S. flights daily, federal officials said.
The upgrade announced by Federal Aviation Administration officials on Tuesday will help steer pilots toward runways at one of the busiest U.S. airports even when severe weather hampers visibility. Congestion at O'Hare can quickly cause gridlock in the U.S. commercial aviation system.
The equipment is to be installed next month and will immediately reduce flight delays, the FAA said.
The navigation upgrade, which will allow planes landing on autopilot to be directed by transmitting devices buried in the runways, also will save airlines about $40 million (euro34 million) a year, the Transportation Department said.
The FAA on Tuesday also announced plans to add new arrival and departure routes at O'Hare, install a backup radar system and build two more air traffic control towers.
The changes come as the city begins work on a $15 billion (euro12.8 billion) expansion plan for O'Hare that would reduce flight delays by reconfiguring runways, adding others and building another terminal.
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Federal officials want to limit the number of flights coming into O'Hare International Airport for three more years to help reduce delays that can affect flights around the country.
Chicago aviation officials like to point to the 31-year-old airport in Dallas as a proven model for the parallel runways envisioned at the future O'Hare International Airport.
Chicago has promised that its $14.7 billion plan virtually will eliminate late and canceled flights during bad weather.
Authorities are making sure light poles, traffic signals and trees bordering the airfield do not block the new equipment's communication with planes.