Air Traffic Insights into Runway Use at MSP

Ever wonder what factors most influence which runways are used for aircraft departing from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)?  On Monday, February 2, 2015, Elaine Buckner, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic Control (ATC) Manager at MSP, gave a presentation to the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) Planning, Development and Environment (PD&E) committee on just that topic. Ms. Buckner's presentation included a discussion of the following:

  1. FAA's Mission
  2. MSP Airport's Runway Use System (RUS)
  3. Review of the traffic demand periods at MSP
  4. Variables and challenges affecting runway use choices
  5. Commitment from the FAA to work with the MAC

Air Traffic Controllers are on duty continuously at MSP to direct aircraft in flight and runway use. "Every morning out team reviews the prior day [activity] and talks about what the day before us will look like," said Buckner. "The most significant conditions affecting runway use are the direction and speed of the wind, and the airlines' schedules for the day."

Ms. Buckner says once the flow of traffic is determined for the day it is very difficult to change it, particularly between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. (the period of heaviest demand and at MSP), likening reconfiguring the flow to turning around a ship. Further, Ms. Buckner says the best opportunity to implement the RUS at MSP - a set of "if/then" statements that provide guidance to local ATC, when conditions allow, in choosing the runways that have the least impact on surrounding neighborhoods -  is between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m.

The MAC Noise Program Office evaluates runway use at MSP monthly. A Runway Use Study was conducted in 2014 and presented to the MSP Noise Oversight Committee (NOC) during its meeting on May 8, 2014. The NOC meeting agenda for May 2014, which includes the Runway Use Study, may be viewed at

There's much more to learn and understand about runway choice and use, so don't stop here - watch Ms. Buckner's presentation (approximately 30 minutes -without the questions and answers period) for more details: ATC Insights Presentation.

Click here to view a larger map of MSP runways: MSP Runways