Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Jessica Birnbaum

Second Advisor

Joe Jocheim


Aviation serves a significant function as a method of transportation. Additionally, the aviation industry takes on a vital role in the both the United States and Global economy. As such, the industry focuses heavily on safety. When it comes to aviation safety there is one particular aspect which involves all parties, whether operating an aircraft or managing an airport- runway safety. The biggest threat to runway safety is runway incursions- marked by either loss of separation between aircraft on the runway or the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle, or person in the runway environment. This case study reviews runway safety Chicago O’Hare International Airport, currently the busiest airport in the United States. First, O’Hare’s layout and operations are analyzed. A large redesign and improvement construction project currently underway at O’Hare known as the O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP) is briefly examined.

Second, three runway incursions at O’Hare are broken down and analyzed: one operational incident, one vehicle deviation, and one pilot deviation. Trends are reviewed and compared to trends at the three other large hub airports in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Great Lakes Region (Minneapolis St-Paul, Detroit Metropolitan, and Chicago Midway). National trends are also briefly reviewed. While each runway incursion is unique, there are several commonalities in contributing or causal factors. Any resulting change in policies or procedures are also examined as a part of the case study. Finally, efforts to mitigate threats to and improve runway safety are discussed. In particular, there are two approaches in place to prevent runway incursions- training and technology. As new technology is developed, applications are created to improve aviation safety. Runway safety training has also been increased and improved upon in the past several years. Training and technology are examined in the cockpit, in the air traffic control tower, and at the airport.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Restricted