Chicago O’Hare:  Not All Security Scanner Lanes Are Created Equal….

Chicago O’Hare: Not All Security Scanner Lanes Are Created Equal….

On a recent trip to Europe that required me to head over to Terminal 5 for my trans-atlantic flight, I was told by a security screener that not all screening equipment is created equal and that there is a bit of ‘secret’ when trying to clear security as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Terminal 5, also know as the International Terminal, is laid out in such a manner that makes it difficult to have multiple security lines based on status levels or class of travel.   Due to the physical bottleneck at security screening, most of the time all passengers are herded through only 2 lines that head toward the screening equipment.   There is a Business / First Class ‘Express’ lane that’s open occasionally based on the timing of some flight departures, but I’ve never seen it open and I have many departures from T-5 under my belt.  Nor is there a Pre-Check lane for those of us enrolled in the program since most international airlines are not enrolled, except for Lufthansa as far as Euro carriers are concerned.

As I was saying, on my last trip to Europe I was flying out of Terminal 5 so I figured I had to endure the long security lines without much chance of being to clear the line faster than anyone else.   Once I got past the point where my Passport and ID are checked, I made my way to the security scanners.   I chose to go the far right of the screening area since the line was shortest.  I also applied the stereotyping process used in ‘Up In The Air’ to avoid the families that seemed to be traveling for the first time ever and would have little clue how to handle security.   I chose the line that had the kind of people in it that I thought would know what they’re doing.   Glad I did.

When I came to the tray to put on my bags and began to reach for my shoes, the agent told me to keep my shoes and belt on.   Of course I had to ask why since I hadn’t seen any new rules regarding passenger screening.   The agent indicated that the scanner that I was going to go through was dialed up with stronger screening ability so that  passengers can leave shoes and belts on during screen.   Great…kind of a ‘Pre-Check’ lite!   I still needed to take my electronics out, but thats a small price to pay in order to keep my shoes and belt on.

I asked her why the difference and she simply replied that the 2 machines at the far right of the screening area are dialed up to help increase the flow of passenger screening during peak time and are sometimes used as overflow lanes to get people through faster.

So what does all this mean?

The next time you have a T-5 departure from O’Hare, pay attention when you pass through the ID/Passport check.   May your way to the 2 scanners at the far right of the screening area.  There’s a chance that you’ll have a much easier time getting through screening without going through all the steps that everyone else has to endure (shoes/belts,etc).

Now keep in mind that this is just my experience and ‘Your Mileage May Vary’, but I doubt that the scanners are re-adjusted too many times.   If the scanners are open, head there.   If not, pay attention to the scanner lines to see if any of them are letting passengers keep their shoes on.   You just might have a slightly easier time of clearing security in a Terminal where it’s normally not easy to do.

Heavies At O’Hare

Heavies At O’Hare

A few weeks ago I was transiting Chicago enroute to Europe for the Austrian GP and had a 5-hour layover that gave me the chance to watch a few birds come and go.   With my flight being on LOT, I had no choice but to go to Terminal 5 to catch my flight which in turn gave me a great angle of the Southern East-West runways that most international arriving and departing flights use due to the proximity to the terminal.

For those of you inclined, the best vantage point tends to between Gates M13 and M15 due to their angle to the runway which gives you a wide perspective for arrivals and departures.     I spent the bulk of the 5 hours there (with visits to the SWISS, Air France/KLM, and SAS lounges along the way).  Yes AF/KLM because LOT contracts with KLM for their Business Class passengers.    But take my word for it, you can skip the AF/KLM lounge.   SWISS is much better primarily because of their  food offerings (Oreos!).

Anyway, here are a few favorites from Terminal 5……


Bound for Delhi, Air India's 777

Bound for Delhi, Air India’s 777

A 787 wears the AA livery beautifully....

A 787 wears the AA livery beautifully….

Another nice 787 moment....

Another nice 787 moment….

Sporting the refreshed Austrian livery, their 777 arrives from Vienna

Sporting the refreshed Austrian livery, their 777 arrives from Vienna

Next stop, Hong Kong

Next stop, Hong Kong

China Eastern 777 arriving from Shanghai

China Eastern 777 arriving from Shanghai

Korean 777 climbs towards Seoul

Korean 777 climbs towards Seoul

My ride to WAW

My ride to WAW

LH's 747-8i has a way to sniff me out every time I'm in ORD......

LH’s 747-8i has a way to sniff me out every time I’m in ORD……

Qatari arrival from Doha

Qatari arrival from Doha

Speedbird photobombed by Air India.

Speedbird photobombed by Air India.

Though not a heavy, when's the last time that you've seen a TWA livery?

Though not a heavy, when’s the last time that you’ve seen a TWA livery?

Plane Spotting (Mostly) Foreign ‘Heavies’ At O’Hare

Plane Spotting (Mostly) Foreign ‘Heavies’ At O’Hare

I finally had the time to sort through my photos from a trip a month ago to Germany, Austria and Slovakia.    As part of the trip I had an 8-hour layover in O’Hare which was spent mostly in Terminal 5 which provided a great view of the arrivals and departures taking place on runways 28R and 28C.   In my opinion, I believe that Terminal 5 offers the best vantage point for plane spotting at the airport.    The only knock on it is the fact that most of the aircraft, most of the time, will be back lit thanks to the sun’s path and orientation of the runway.  You’ll see that play out in the photos.

For this post, I focused on unique carriers that visit O’Hare.  I figure most of you have seen American or United Airlines short and medium haul aircraft so I’ll spare you photos of their A320s, 737s and regional jets.



Russia’s AirBridgeCargo 747-8F VQ-BRH entered service for the carrier in September 2013.



American’s 3rd oldest 787, N802N,  delivered in May 2015.



ANA’s 777-300, JA735A, entered service in June 2006.



Speedbird’s 744, G-CIVF, entered service in April 1995.



Cargolux’s 747-400F, LX-VCV, entered service in December 2005.



Cathay’s 777, B-KPW, was delivered in August 2011.



Etihad’s 777-300, A6-ETQ entered service in September 2013.



Eva Cargo’s 747-400F entered service in July 2012.



Not a heavy, but Frontier’s tails always makes for a nice photo. N229FR (Airbus A320) was delivered in April 2015.



Iberia’s A330, EC-MAA, was delivered in April 2014.



JAL’s 777, JA731J, was delivered in June 2004.



Korean’s 777-300, HL8006, was delivered in July 2015.



Lufthansa’s 747-8i, D-ABYI, entered service in June 2013. Seen here in her ‘Siegerflieger’ livery.



‘YI’ arriving at her gate in Terminal 5.



NCA’s 747-8F, JA12KZ, entered service in January 2013.



Qatar Cargo’s 777, A7-BFE, was delivered in June 2013.



TNT’s 777, OO-TSB, was delivered in April 2012.



United’s 747-400, N127UA, was delivered in August 1999.

Plane Spotting Chicago’s O’Hare:  Fanhansa Tracks Me Down….

Plane Spotting Chicago’s O’Hare: Fanhansa Tracks Me Down….

    Typically I do not see O’Hare as a Plane Spotting friendly airport.   I usually am in the airport anywhere from 40-50 times a year and seldom found myself taking photos of any of the traffic.    This is primarily due to the fact that O’Hare to me is a transit airport when connecting to other flights so there is typically little time.   Additionally, with all of my travel to and from O’Hare being either on Lufthansa or United, I’m departing from terminal 1 or 2 which are not conducive to great spotting.

    However, my opinion did change last week when I was flying to Europe on extremely short notice (18 hours) and needed to be in Slovakia ASAP.    In order to get there in the fastest way possible I flew on AUSTRIAN which enable me to arrive in Vienna first thing the next day.   For those not familiar with O’Hare, most international non-US carrier departures take place from Terminal 5.  I say most because Lufthansa and ANA depart from terminal 1 making it convenient for United Airlines passengers.   You don’t have to re-clear security when flying with them.

    By flying Austrian, I had to go to terminal 5 in order to board my flight.   I had not been in terminal 5 as a departing passengers in nearly 12 years and this was certainly years before plane spotting became somewhat of a habit.   Once past security, I found to my surprise a great venue to watch arriving and departing aircraft along with aircraft taxiing to their Terminal 5 gates which create a nice mix of International and Domestic heavies.

    I spent about 2 hours near gate M13 as well as in the SAS Lounge with camera in hand.   I happened to be there during the peak arrival time for International flights so the variety was quite good.    Enjoy!



    SAS’ A330 approaches her Terminal 5 gate.


    United’s 777


    American’s 777 arriving at O’Hare


    AeroMexico arriving from Mexico City


    Iberia’s A330 arrives from Madrid


    Cargolux’s 747-8F prepares for departure


    United’s 747 begins her takeoff roll.


    American (and United) Embraer aircraft are EVERYWHERE at O’Hare!


    Virgin Atlantic’s A340 being prepared for her flight to London.


    Speedbird as well being prepared for a flight to London.


    Korean Air’s 777


    ANA’s 777 taxiing to the runway for her flight to Tokyo.


    And of course there are my favorite shots of the day.   Lufthansa’s 747-8i, D-ABYI, dressed in her Fanhansa livery arrived from Frankfurt while I was taking my photos.    As luck would have she would pull up right in front of me as if she knew where I was! 🙂

    This aircraft would fly back to Frankfurt and then immediately turned around to fly to Rio de Janiero to pick up the German Soccer Team who had won FIFA’s World Cup.



    Arriving from Frankfurt.


    Approaching Terminal 5.



    Right place at the right time for this shot, but unfortunately photo-bombed by a United 777!






    You can’t get much closer without being aboard!