April 4, 2003
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the world's largest civil aviation organization, today filed formal complaints with both the Federal Aviation Administration and the Illinois Department of Transportation, alleging that the city of Chicago's destruction of Meigs Field airport violated federal law and state regulations.
"Mayor Daley landed the first punch in the latest fight over Meigs," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "But it was not a knockout blow. Today's filings are the first of many counterpunches AOPA is planning to win the airport's reopening."
AOPA's complaint to the FAA claims that the city of Chicago violated both the U.S. Code and federal aviation regulations (FARs) and that the city plans to continue demolition once all aircraft stranded by the city's actions are removed from the airport. The U.S. Code states that an airport or landing area not involving the expenditure of federal money may be altered substantially "only if the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration is given reasonable prior notice, so that the Administrator may provide advice on the effects" of the alteration [emphasis added]. In order for the administrator to carry out that obligation, federal aviation regulations state that anyone intending to alter a runway, deactivate a runway or airport, or change the status of an airport must submit notice of that intent at least 90 days prior to taking such action.
The FARs do provide for immediate emergency action, such as in the case of national security, which Daley is claiming. However, even in the case of an emergency, if the airport has a charted instrument approach, which Meigs Field does, a minimum of 30 days' notice must be given.
AOPA is asking FAA Administrator Marion Blakey to issue a cease and desist order to prevent further destruction of the airport, to request the U.S. attorney general begin legal proceedings for a similar injunction, and to take legal action against the city for violating federal aviation regulations and the law.
AOPA is also seeking similar relief from the state of Illinois. State regulations require that anyone seeking to alter an existing airport must first receive a certificate of approval from the state department of transportation. In today's complaint, AOPA claims, "The City of Chicago has altered and, we understand, plans to continue to alter Meigs Field without a certificate of approval. Because of the likelihood that the City of Chicago will continue to alter Meigs Field, an emergency exists requiring that the Division of Aeronautics schedule a hearing on an emergency basis to investigate the complaint." AOPA is calling on the Illinois Division of Aeronautics to go to court to prevent any further destruction at Meigs.
AOPA is the world's largest civil aviation organization, with nearly 400,000 members. The association is dedicated to advancing the interests of general aviation and preventing the closure of civil airports throughout the country. These airports are a vital and critical component of a national transportation system.
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