May 18, 2001
AOPA is taking an extraordinary step via the airwaves to save a landmark Chicago airport. An AOPA-produced television commercial to convince Illinois state legislators and the general public to keep Merrill C. Meigs Field airport open began airing Sunday evening and will run throughout the week in the Illinois capitol of Springfield. The timing is critical as the legislature adjourns Friday.
"At a time when the nation's attention has turned to airport capacity problems, particularly in Chicago, should a reliever airport like Meigs be closed?" said Phil Boyer, AOPA president. "Our 370,000 members want to draw attention to this issue that is so important to Illinois and the nation's air transportation system."
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley intends to close Meigs Field in February 2002. AOPA is interested in structuring a solution that maintains the Meigs Field airport and meets Mayor Daley's interest in providing additional parks on the city's waterfront. In a recent independent survey, a majority of Chicago residents were in favor of keeping Meigs Field open.
The 30-second commercial begins by establishing the airport's history and longstanding support from Chicago political leaders. It moves to dramatic low-level aerial footage of the airfield and its unique, safe approach route over Lake Michigan. The commercial goes on to establish the airport's close proximity to Chicago's "Loop" business district, as well as other nearby landmarks.
The commercial will air on three television outlets in Springfield during the morning and late-evening news programs as well as NBC's Today Show, CBS's Early Show, and ABC's Good Morning America. The airing times provide convenient opportunities for Illinois legislators to view and hear AOPA's message. The commercial ends with the words, "Meigs Field is a valuable asset. Isn't it worth saving?"
"Meigs Field is an essential air transportation access point for downtown Chicago," Boyer said. "Its close proximity to downtown saves over an hour for those conducting business in the Loop. Its location allows aircraft to safely arrive and depart over Lake Michigan, not the city itself, and the noise footprint is over water, not over inhabited areas."
Meigs Field also provides relief for other Chicago-area airports by serving as an alternative destination for business and general aviation aircraft. Closing Meigs would force aircraft to use airports already brimming with traffic. This would adversely affect users of Meigs and the millions of airline passengers flying out of O'Hare and Midway airports.
AOPA is sending a videotape copy of the commercial and a personal letter from Phil Boyer to each Illinois state legislator, federal government representatives, and the news media.
"Meigs is a showcase and an icon of Chicago with its unique lakefront location," Boyer said. "We should leave no stone unturned at a time when runway capacity is so important to moving people."
AOPA was founded in 1939 to help keep general aviation flying fun, safe, and as affordable as possible. Today, AOPA represents more than 370,000 pilots, who own or fly three quarters of the nation's 206,000 general aviation aircraft.
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