July 4, 2003
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the world's largest civil aviation organization, today filed suit in federal district court to prevent "further illegal efforts to destroy Meigs Field."
"This is just one of many actions we will take on different fronts to restore Meigs Field," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, who is also a plaintiff in the suit. "The nation's pilots will not stand idly by while Mayor Daley destroys a part of our national transportation system."
The suit, filed in the Eastern Division of the U.S District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, names both the city of Chicago and the Chicago Park District. It contends that Chicago violated federal regulations by not providing the required advance notice to the Federal Aviation Administration before damaging the runway. The lack of notice created "hazards and inconveniences" for aircraft. It also interfered with the FAA's statutory obligation to evaluate the effects of the action on "existing or contemplated traffic patterns of neighboring airports" and the effects on the "safe and efficient use of airspace by aircraft and the safety of persons and property on the ground."
The suit notes that Mayor Richard M. Daley had openly admitted that the city agencies had "engaged in their covert late-night destruction of the runway to circumvent any public scrutiny, resistance, or debate."
AOPA argued that there was no "emergency" requiring the destruction of the runway. The pilot's association told the court that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had already approved the city's request for a temporary flight restriction (TFR) over downtown Chicago, and that prevented unauthorized aircraft from transiting that airspace. (Interestingly, The city's March 19 request for a TFR did NOT include Meigs Field or the airspace around the airport.)
Noting that Chicago had not consulted or coordinated with DHS or the Transportation Security Administration prior to damaging Meigs, AOPA said in its suit that, "Aircraft utilizing Meigs Field pose no threat to the greater Chicagoland area, and certainly no greater threat than aircraft in transit to and from O'Hare and Midway, which aircraft often use the airspace surrounding Meigs Field."
The association told the court that Meigs Field was an integral part of the statewide and national transportation system. It is a part of the congressionally approved National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, and it "provides benefits to the commercial aviation system and to O'Hare and Midway [airports] by allowing general aviation aircraft to avoid taking up saturated operational capacity at O'Hare and Midway."
AOPA asked the court to permanently enjoin Chicago from further destruction of Meigs Field as an airport.
The nearly 400,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, based outside of Washington, D.C., represents general aviation—all flying except scheduled airlines and the military. More than two thirds of the nation's active pilots are AOPA members, as are some 13,700 Illinois pilots.
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