Monday, December 14, 2015

Neighbors skeptical of plan to spread out jet noise from O'Hare International Airport (KORD)

City officials offered more details Monday on a nighttime plan to spread out jet noise from O'Hare International Airport, but Chicago-area residents who attended the presentation reacted with deep skepticism.

The emerging centerpiece of the city's noise-abatement plan involves a 52-week schedule to rotate O'Hare runways used late at night each week, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The overnight rotation for arrivals and departures would not repeat the exact same runway combinations for eight weeks "to the extent possible," officials at the Chicago Department of Aviation told the fly quiet committee of the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.

In addition, city aviation officials and their consultants fleshed out a still conceptual plan to direct pilots to execute turns shortly after taking off from O'Hare's new east-west parallel runways late at night.

The goal behind quickly changing aircraft course headings within roughly 6 miles of the airfield, when planes are at low altitude, is to navigate over the least populated areas, officials said. They said performance-based navigation technology is making such surgically executed maneuvers increasingly possible without compromising safety.

The Federal Aviation Administration has not reviewed or approved preliminary ideas, officials said.

The next major step in the process will be for the O'Hare noise commission to accept or modify the city's plan. The city would then submit a formal proposal to the FAA.

No timetable has been provided for implementing any changes.

Meanwhile, many noise-weary residents have still not given up on pressuring Rahm Emanuel's administration to retain all four of O'Hare's diagonal runways as a tool to disburse jet noise over wider areas and provide relief to communities directly east and west of the airport.

City Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans, who did not attend Monday's meeting at the aviation department headquarters at O'Hare, has ruled out reversing plans to permanently close two of the diagonal runways.

One diagonal was shut down in August and the second will be closed no later than 2019 — to make way for construction of a sixth east-west parallel runway, set to open in 2020, as well as create room for the opening of a western access roadway into the airport, officials said.

The city has not identified funding to build the sixth parallel, and American Airlines and United Airlines have repeatedly stated that they do not support further runway construction at this time.

A spokesman for Evans said Monday that the commissioner "continues productive discussions with our airline partners."

The city's plan to ask the FAA to direct pilots to make sharp turns to thread a needle over industrial areas and forest preserves bordering residential areas is a poor substitute aimed at "trying to achieve headings as if the diagonal runways are still there," said Al Rapp, a member of Fair Allocation in Runways, a group seeking to save the two diagonals.

Schiller Park Mayor Barbara Piltaver, who is a member of the noise commission, asked the fly quiet committee: "How are we going to find consensus if Chicago is dead set on closing certain runways?"

Wood Dale resident Mary Straka was the only citizen who testified during the public comment part of Monday's meeting to say that she was encouraged by the specifics of the city's runway rotation plan.

But Straka, who said she lives about a block away from a runway that opened in 2013, said the city needs to compromise instead of dictating to city and suburban residents how O'Hare noise will be addressed.

"What we are experiencing in Wood Dale is not noise," Straka told the fly quiet committee. "It's total abuse."


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