Flight crews headed for Chicago Midway Airport (MDW) should pay special attention to the new Rnav (GPS) Z Runway 22L approach published February 6. The new procedure could increase the potential for conflict with smaller general aviation aircraft traveling along Lake Michigan’s western shoreline. The new RNP/GPS procedure will bring traffic across Chicago’s lakeshore just south of the downtown buildings for a straight-in to 22L.
Currently, VFR traffic flying north and south along the lake remains clear of the Chicago Class B airspace by remaining below 3,600 feet. But traffic on the new 22L approach will cross the shoreline westbound at 2,400 feet, placing it in potential conflict with lakeshore aircraft. The Class B altitudes relate only to Chicago ORD, while MDW’s Class C airspace does not extend to the lakeshore, creating a no man’s land near the shoreline. The FAA is recommending that small aircraft transit the area below 2,400 feet while the agency examines the possibility of redesigning MDW’s Class C. Small aircraft are still permitted to fly the lakeshore above 2,400 feet if they choose.
The new MDW procedure was created to eliminate, or at least avoid, the uncomfortable “31 Center ILS, circle 22 Left” approach that forced large jets and turboprops into steep turns close to the ground to line up for 22L. Chicago’s downtown buildings always prevented a straight-in ILS approach.