AOPA unveils 12-point plan for Meigs

March 4, 2003

Illinois Department of Transportation
Division of Aeronautics
1 Langhorne Bond Drive
Capital Airport
Springfield, Illinois 62707-8415

Re: Merrill C. Meigs Field

Dear Sir or Madam:

This is a written complaint filed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association ("AOPA") pursuant to the provisions of Ill. Rev. Stat. Ch. 620 Section 5/55 to initiate a proceeding against the City of Chicago, Illinois, for violation of the laws of the State of Illinois pertaining to aeronautics.

SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT

Specifically, this is to complain that the City of Chicago has altered and, we understand, plans to continue to alter Merrill C. Meigs Field without a certificate of approval issued by the Division of Aeronautics as required by Ill. Rev. Stat. Ch. 620 Section 5/55. Because of the likelihood that the City of Chicago will continue to alter Meigs Field, AOPA hereby requests that the Division of Aeronautics determine that an emergency exists and schedule a hearing on an emergency basis to investigate the complaint. AOPA further requests that the Division of Aeronautics institute in circuit court an action to prevent, restrain, correct or abate any violation of the law.

IDENTITY OF COMPLAINANT

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is a non-profit membership organization representing over 395,000 individual aircraft owners and pilots nationwide, over 13,760 of which reside in the State of Illinois. AOPA members comprise more than two-thirds of the active civil pilots certificated in the United States, and account for more than two-thirds of the flying annually. Public-access airports, like Meigs Field, are an essential segment of general aviation. As a spokesperson for general aviation interests in the United States, AOPA has frequently participated in litigation seeking to protect general aviation airports. For years, AOPA has been heavily involved with the efforts to keep Meigs Field open and available for service to general aviation and for service to the City of Chicago.

SUBJECT OF COMPLAINT

The subject of this complaint is The City of Chicago, and its Mayor Richard M. Daley, 121 N. LaSalle, Room 507, Chicago, IL 60602 (hereinafter collectively the "City").

FACTS

Meigs Field is a public-use airport operated by the City of Chicago located on Northerly Island, a parcel of land initially created from and built upon submerged lands in Lake Michigan. Meigs Field opened in 1948. In recent years, Mayor Daley has attempted to close the airport and to convert it to a park.

Upon information and belief, at approximately 1:30 a.m. on Monday, March 31, 2003 City crews acting upon orders from Mayor Daley utilized demolition equipment to dig large holes in the runway at Meigs Field, rendering it unusable as an airport. The City undertook this alteration to the airport without prior notice to the Division of Aeronautics, and without application for a certificate of approval.

As a result of this unauthorized alteration of Meigs Field, sixteen general aviation aircraft were stranded at the airport. The City has temporarily halted destruction of the airport pending the removal of those aircraft. However, it is AOPA's understanding that the City plans to continue with the destruction/alteration of the airport once the aircraft are removed.

LAW

Ill. Rev. Stat. Ch. 620, Section 5/47 provides that:

It shall be unlawful for any municipality or other political subdivision, or officer or employee thereof, or for any person, to make any alteration or extension of an existing airport...for which a certificate of approval has not been issued by the Department;

Ill. Rev. Stat. Ch. 620, Section 5/48 provides that:

In determining whether it shall issue a certificate of approval for any airport or restricted landing area, or any alteration or extension thereof, the Department shall take into consideration its proposed location, size and layout, the relationship of the proposed airport or restricted landing area to the then current national airport plan, the then current Federal airways system, the then current State airport plan, and the then current State airways system, whether there are safe areas available for expansion purposes, whether the adjoining area is free from obstructions based on a proper glide ratio, the nature of the terrain, the nature of the uses to which the proposed airport or restricted landing area will be put, the possibilities for future development, and such other factors as, under the circumstances, it regards as having an important bearing thereon.

Ill. Rev. Stat. Ch. 620, Section 5/55 provides that:

...Any person, the Federal Government, or any agency, department or officer thereof, or any municipality or other political subdivision of this State or any other state, may make a complaint, which shall be in writing setting forth any act or things done or omitted to be done in violation or claimed to be in violation of the laws of this State pertaining to aeronautics, or of the rules, rulings, regulations, orders or decisions of the Department thereunder.
Upon the filing of a complaint, the Department shall cause a copy thereof to be served upon the person, municipality or political subdivision complained of, which shall be accompanied by notice requiring that the complaint be satisfied and answered within a reasonable time to be specified by the Department, or within the discretion of the Department, by a notice fixing a time when, and place where, a hearing will be had upon such complaint.
...
The time fixed for such hearing upon a complaint shall not be less than ten days after the date of the service of such notice and complaint, unless the Department determines that an emergency exists, in which event it may prescribe a time for such hearing less than ten days after the date of such service....

Ill. Rev. Stat. Ch. 620, Section 5/79a provides that:

In addition to any other remedies the Department may institute in any circuit court an action to prevent, restrain, correct or abate any violation of this act or of any regulations adopted or of any orders and rulings made by the Department pursuant to this act; and the court shall adjudge to the plaintiff such relief, by way of injunction (which may be mandatory) or otherwise, as may be proper under all the facts and circumstances of the case, in order fully to effectuate the purposes of this act and of the regulations adopted and orders and rulings made pursuant thereto.

CONCLUSION

The City of Chicago has altered and, we understand, plans to continue to alter Meigs Field without a certificate of approval issued by the Division of Aeronautics as required by Ill. Rev. Stat. Ch. 620 Section 5/55. 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 further requests that the Division of Aeronautics provide appropriate relief, including but not limited to instituting in circuit court an action to prevent, restrain, correct or abate any violation of the law.

Respectfully submitted,

AIRCRAFT OWNERS AND PILOTS ASSOCIATION

Philip B. Boyer
President

April 3, 2003