MIAMI – Today in Aviation, the first commercial flights arrived at Chicago’s new international airport ‘O’Hare’ (ORD) in 1955. TWA (TW) was honored with the first departure when the earlier flight 94 departed for Paris.

O’Hare was previously known as Douglas Airfield after planemaker Douglas began building its C-54 Skymaster transport aircraft at the site in 1942. 665 were built before its operation was moved back to California. The airfield was then renamed Orchard Field Airport, from which its three-letter IATA code “ORD” comes.

At this time Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly was looking at sites for a new airport to support the city’s future aviation needs. Orchard Field was chosen and over US$25m was invested in the new facility.

American Airlines (AA) was one of the first operators at ORD. Today it is the second-largest carrier behind United Airlines (UA) with around 35% of market share. Pictured here is one of the airlines Convair CV-240s in 1962. (Photo: Jon Proctor (GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html or GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html), via Wikimedia Commons)

Orchard Field to O’Hare International


On July 1, 1949, the airport was renamed ‘O’Hare International’ after naval aviator Edward “Butch” O’Hare. In September that year, the site hosted the National Air Fair, attended by over 200,000 people.

Airlines were initially reluctant to move their operations to ORD from neighboring Chicago Midway (MDW) and growth was slow. MDW however had no room for expansion. With its short runways, the arrival of the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 in 1959 meant that airlines had no choice but to transfer to the new facility.

By July 1962 MDW was left without any scheduled airlines. ORD meanwhile became the world’s busiest airport virtually overnight, a title it held until 1998.

By Spring 1959 ORD was handling 28 “jets” per day. Here a busy ramp is pictured in September 1959 with 707s from both American and TWA. (Photo: Jon Proctor (GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html or GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html), via Wikimedia Commons)

Featured image: Today Chicago O’Hare has six parallel runways and two crosswind runways. (Ercan Karakas – SpotTR (GFDL or GFDL ), via Wikimedia Commons)