Jan. 13, 2015

Sometimes, to get something started, all you have to do is speak up. Mark Zakula did that during the redesign of the Class B airspace surrounding Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), and the resulting improvement in relations between business aviation interests and local air traffic controllers has been of remarkable benefit to operators all across Chicagoland.

Zakula – a senior captain and director of training for the Duchossois Group, an Illinois-based NBAA Member – leads the Air Traffic Control (ATC) Committee at the Chicago Area Business Aviation Association (CABAA), along with fellow CABAA members Carl Robst and Peter Lehner. The committee was formed a dozen years ago after CABAA members realized there were no SIDS or STARS for local airports other than ORD or Midway International Airport (MDW).

“Now, we have a lot of routes,” Zakula said. “We’ve been working with (ATC) to a point where anytime there’s an airspace meeting of any kind, they invite us.”

The biggest collaboration between CABAA and FAA came during the recent reorganization of ORD’s Class B airspace, according to NBAA Midwest Regional Representative Bob Quinn.

CABAA members “have been instrumental in working with the FAA in defending and optimizing the airspace needs for the Chicago reliever airports, which were vulnerable to significant constraints resulting from recent O’Hare redesign and runway expansion changes,” he said. “Because of Mark’s Chicago operating expertise, his ability to effectively understand FAA constraints, and make constructive recommendations, he became head of the user group committee advising local FAA officials on operator airspace needs. He not only represented the business aircraft operators, but also was a resource for the entire aviation community.”

Zakula describes the next two years as a “fun fight” among airspace advocates and FAA. “We got through almost 90 percent of the items we wanted,” he said.

The CABAA ATC Committee was also effective in providing input for the design and implementation of an important visual departure from Chicago Executive Airport (PWK). The only similar procedure in the entire country is the Dalton Visual Departure at Teterboro, NJ (TEB). The PWK procedure has been named the “CABAA Visual Departure” in honor of the regional organization’s efforts.

“The CABAA Visual could not have been done without the efforts of Mark and Carl and the respect the FAA has for their expertise,” said Quinn.

Another key move to improve communication among flight departments and FAA policymakers across the Chicago region was the creation of an airport representative system. Each satellite field surrounding ORD and MDW now has a CABAA representative who provides input not just to the group’s ATC Committee, but to the FAA airspace meetings as well. That, he explained, puts the responsibility for dealing with local issues squarely at the feet of those who are most affected.

“I tell the airport reps, ‘If you don’t tell me what’s up, we won’t know.’ Now that we get this information from the satellite fields, we can organize the information and better present it to ATC,” Zakula said.

NBAA Director of Air Traffic Services and Infrastructure Bob Lamond called CABAA’s ATC Committee work indispensable.

“Mark Zakula, Carl Robst, Peter Lehner and CABAA have been instrumental in furthering the interests of business aviation in the Midwest with their strong advocacy for airspace and procedure improvements that benefit business aviation airports in the region,” Lamond said. “CABAA, like several other business aviation local and regional groups, sets a high bar that should be emulated by newer groups around the country.”