Ryan Smith, Chicago Sun Times
Mike Badame has one of the most important jobs at O’Hare International Airport you’ve never heard of — and he aims to keep it that way.
As assistant chief operating engineer for the Chicago Department of Aviation, he’s part of a team literally keeping the lights on at the airport complex and much more. Think of the facility like a human body and engineers like Badame are its central nervous system.
“We handle all of the heating and cooling, the automation system reporting, the energy management, the water distribution and all the utilities,” said Badame, 41, who’s worked at O’Hare since 2008.
It’s the kind of essential work that quietly hums in the background at O’Hare during all the hubbub that comes with 80 million passengers zipping in and out of 900,000 flights a year in the world’s sixth busiest airport. If Badame gets noticed, it’s likely because something’s not working correctly.
“The people working behind the walls? Nobody ever really notices us or sees us. And the fact that we’re able to operate unnoticed speaks volumes about the operations of the airport,” said Badame.