You can't see them, but the skies above you are filled with streets. They are as real as the expressways you know as "Kennedy," "Eisenhower" and "Dan Ryan." And like those roads, these highways used by thousands of pilots have some familiar Chicago names as well.
Air traffic routes are used primarily by pilots on instrument flight plans. These include not only the major airlines, but also general aviation pilots on long-haul flights across the United States. They are laid out with the aid of navigational beacons and GPS fixes. And as those pilots approach the Chicago area, the names on their charts, make clear exactly where they are.
Perhaps the best example is the Paitn One Arrival procedure (that's pronounced, PAYTON). Flights along that line proceed through the DITCA intersection, past WLTR and PAITN. Then come the fixes FIYER (Fire) and ERNNY (Banks).
Nearby are the waypoints CSTLO, and OBSTR, commemorating two prominent transportation-minded members of Congress, James Oberstar of Minnesota, the powerful chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and Jerry Costello of Illinois, who chairs the Subcommittee on Aviation.
The ROYKO THREE arrival procedure into O'Hare features not only the ROYKO and VEECK intersections, but also, for Pink Panther afficianados, CLUSO, KAYTO, and of course, PINKK. MONKZ and POSSM pick up an animal theme thereafter. And a designated hold nearby, is named FRIDG, a tribute either to our weather, or good old number 72.
No sport is forgotten. Hockey fans in the air know to look for MKITA, ESSPO, and HULLS. And just in case those pilots prefer music in their stadiums, the GOSHEN FOUR arrival procedure, features the fixes AWSUM and IROCK.
The FAA says the names may sound arbitrary or amusing. But in fact, designations are chosen which are not only extremely unique, but also specific in their sounds, so there is no confusion. And no two are repeated. You won't find a DITCA outside of Los Angeles.
By the way, someone is obviously an NBC fan. The PAITN ONE arrival has one other very familiar fix: PECOK.