March 4, 2003
March 30, 2003
Since 1994, AOPA has committed a significant amount of money and association resources on the effort to save Chicago's Meigs Field Airport. "It was a bitter battle to lose, but when you review what AOPA has done over the past decade to save Meigs, I'm proud to say that we left no stone unturned," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "With the help and support of our members, we fought one hell of a fight."
Through the years, AOPA has never been hesitant to commit the association's resources in battle for Meigs when there was the slightest chance for success, Boyer said. Many others have partnered in the fight as well, but none have individually contributed as much as AOPA.
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February 11, 2003
AOPA's claim that the city of Chicago violated federal law and aviation regulations when it shut down Meigs Field last March has merit, says the FAA, and will be investigated. AOPA filed a formal complaint following the destruction of Meigs's runway on Mayor Richard M. Daley's order, claiming the city failed to provide adequate notice, as required by the FARs. The complaint will not result in the airport's reopening but can lead to the mayor and the city being punished for their actions.
"AOPA intends to push for the appropriate penalty to be imposed on the city," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Mayor Daley and any other state or local official who may want to follow Daley's lead must be made to understand they cannot unilaterally change the National Airspace System."
August 5, 2003
Tuesday, August 5, 2003, marked the final chapter for Chicago's Meigs Field. The Chicago Tribune reports that demolition crews rolled into the airport at about 6:30 a.m. local to begin the final destruction of that city's lakefront airport.
"The day we had all feared has arrived," lamented AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Until now, many had held onto the slimmest of hopes that the airport could still be saved. Now there's no denying that [Chicago Mayor Richard M.] Daley has gotten his way. Meigs is no more. But no one can deny that AOPA and other Meigs supporters fought a valiant fight to save it."
July 29, 2003
The day after Chicago's Meigs Field proved its value again, the FAA stuck another nail in the airport's coffin. On Sunday, an aircraft flying just north of the airport on its way to Oshkosh suffered an electrical failure and made an emergency landing in the grass alongside the rubble from Meigs' torn-up runway. On Monday, the FAA published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to revoke the Class D airspace around the closed airport.
"Twice in as many weeks, aircraft have set down at Meigs despite the closure, due to in-flight situations," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "But Mayor Daley still plans to begin final demolition of the runway in less than a month."
Update: July 17, 2003
The Chicago Parks District on Wednesday night awarded a $1.5 million contract for the final destruction of Meigs Field. According to an article in Thursday's Chicago Tribune, the head of the Parks District says the work could begin within 30 days.
As expected, the contract to tear up the runway and remove electrical infrastructure went to Pacific Construction. The company has received several Park District contracts in recent years. Another contract is expected within a month for the preliminary landscaping.
Meanwhile, AOPA continues to pursue its formal FAA complaint against the city for improperly closing the airport. The FAA told AOPA Friday that the complaint is currently under review in the agency's legal department.
A Chicago city alderman has called for public hearings to question Mayor Daley's secret midnight destruction of the airfield. Alderman Joe Moore has suggested the city reconsider the AOPA plan proposed in May that would have the city buy the airport from the park district using federal funds. But Moore, an independent Democrat, is not likely to get the hearings. The city council Aviation Committee is controlled by a staunch Daley ally who, according to Chicago political observers, is no more likely to hold the hearings than the mayor is likely to change his mind about Meigs.
"Since 1994, AOPA has committed a significant amount of money and association resources on trying to save Meigs," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And in my heart, I'm still not ready to give up. But I also have to say in all honesty that I don't think I'll ever land again at Meigs Field."
June 2, 2003
It was not a good weekend for the embattled and scarred airport on the shores of Lake Michigan. Late Friday afternoon, an Illinois appeals court lifted an emergency temporary restraining order that had prevented the city of Chicago from doing more damage to Meigs Field airport. In the state legislature, meanwhile, Mayor Daley's partisans kept Meigs-saving legislation bottled up in committee. That legislation would have forced the city to reopen the airport, but the full legislature never got the chance to vote on it. And it became very clear that AOPA's federal lawsuit would not succeed in reopening the airport.
"These were bitter and significant losses, but we're still continuing the fight," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We knew going in that the chances of success in court were not great because of the unique federal agreements on this airport. And the FAA's reluctance to take a strong stand through the years also damaged our rescue efforts.
"Nevertheless, we will continue our efforts toward finding any legal or legislative actions that will stand a reasonable chance of saving Meigs Field airport."
Update: May 23, 2003
Following on the heels of AOPA's highly publicized press conference yesterday proposing a "buy-out" plan to save Meigs Field, there were major legal setbacks for the scarred airport today. First, a state court dismissed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago by the Friends of Meigs. That dismissal also removed a temporary restraining order (TRO) prohibiting the city from further damaging the airport.
As soon as that decision was issued, in a pre-planned move AOPA attorneys marched into federal court seeking a TRO in its case against the city. That suit involved violations of federal aviation regulations. But federal judge James Moran noted that the FAA had had AOPA's complaint for 53 days and had not done anything to reopen the airport, nor was it likely to. He denied issuing a TRO.
But late this evening the Illinois appellate court granted a stay on the Friends of Meigs suit, and that will protect Meigs airfield until June 4.
"We knew from the beginning that the legal actions had only a limited chance of succeeding," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, "but AOPA members across the nation have made it very clear that no measure should be spared to save this iconic airport.
"While the court losses today have dampened our legal challenges, some extraordinary positive things continue to come from our other efforts."
Photo: Meigs runway, visible from site of AOPA news conference.
May 23, 2003
Chicagoans learned plenty about AOPA's win-win proposal to save Meigs Field, thanks to extensive coverage by local media.
All of the major news outlets—print, radio, and television—turned out for Thursday's news conference at Chicago's Plaza Club, at which AOPA President Phil Boyer outlined how the city could use federal dollars to buy the airport land, reopen the runway, and have money to build the nature reserve that Mayor Richard Daley wants so badly. The event generated nearly three dozen broadcast reports, plus coverage in The Chicago Tribune and several other publications.
Photo: WBBM-TV reporter Chris Hernandez interviews Boyer on the AOPA plan to save Meigs.
May 22, 2003
AOPA today unveiled a bold plan that would bring an infusion of $41 million to the Chicago Park District through a federal aviation grant and restore Meigs Field Airport.
At a Chicago news conference attended by all of Chicago's major news media, including all of the local television stations, AOPA President Phil Boyer outlined what he called a win-win situation for both pilots and the city. The news conference was held in the prestigious Plaza Club on Prudential Plaza's 40th floor, overlooking Meigs Field's still-X'd-out runway.
The AOPA plan calls for the park district, the current owner of the land, to sell Meigs to the city of Chicago for $41 million, which is the fair market value of the property based on a July 2001 appraisal conducted by a nationally recognized aviation expert. As operator and sponsor of Meigs, the city can apply for and obtain the funds necessary to purchase Meigs through the FAA's Airport Improvement Program (AIP). Additionally, the influx of capital would allow the park district to use part of Northerly Island, where Meigs is located, to create a new park and improve others.
Photo: AOPA President Phil Boyer explains AOPA's plan for Chicago to buy Meigs land.
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May 16, 2003
AOPA was in federal court in Chicago on Thursday, for the first hearing on the association's suit against the city of Chicago for closing and digging up Meigs Field airport.
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley ought to be getting the message by now that his destruction of Meigs Field has implications far beyond his city limits. On Thursday, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission approved a resolution to condemn the demolition and "to support AOPA's efforts to reopen Merrill C. Meigs Field."
Update: May 14, 2003
AOPA's lobbying blitz in the Illinois capital of Springfield is paying off. State Representative David Leitch (R-73rd District) has introduced an amendment that would require the city of Chicago to "restore and reopen Meigs Field as an airport for public use."
The amendment is to a Senate Bill 802 that would give Chicago additional powers to be able to expand O'Hare International Airport. The amendment is currently in the House Rules Committee, which must decide to advance the legislation to the full House for consideration. AOPA members in Illinois are urged to contact their representatives in the House and ask them to support the amendment to reopen Meigs Field.
"The willingness of the Republican leadership to introduce this amendment shows that Meigs is a much bigger issue than the city of Chicago," said AOPA Vice President for Regional Affairs Bill Dunn, who is in Springfield working with Illinois lawmakers.
May 13, 2003
AOPA Vice President of Regional Affairs Bill Dunn told an Illinois Senate panel Monday evening that they cannot ignore Meigs Field as the legislature contemplates changes to the Chicago-area system of airports.
"Operations that used to be accommodated at Meigs Field already constrain other nearby airports," Dunn told the members of the Illinois Senate Executive Committee. The committee is working on a bill to allow for the expansion of O'Hare International Airport.
"Chicago's airports are not independent; they operate as a system," Dunn continued. "When considering the future of Chicago's air transportation system, you must not ignore the need to reopen Meigs Field."
[See also AOPA's written testimony.]
April 29, 2003
Nearly a month after Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley destroyed the runway at Merrill C. Meigs Field, even as court cases to force the airport's reopening get under way, the public-relations battle appears to be going general aviation's way.
Forbes magazine publisher Rich Karlgaard took a swipe at Mayor Daley in his April 28 column. Under the headline " Mayor Daley's Big Goof," he wrote, "This little jewel of an airport was an asset to Chicago's business community. It would have become more so in the years ahead." That's because of the new small jets coming online. These jets, particularly when chartered as "air limos" will be ideally suited to business travelers, and Meigs would have been the idea airport for service to Chicago. "Meigs Field was the perfect airport to serve tomorrow's air limos," Karlgaard told a national, business audience. "Unwisely, Chicago has surrendered a big asset."
April 17, 2003
In a letter to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.), AOPA President Phil Boyer warned that Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's demolition of the runways at Merrill C. Meigs Field has generated a great deal of ill will against the city among the nation's general aviation pilots, as well as concern from members of Congress.
[ Read more of AOPA's coverage of the Meigs issue.]
April 14, 2003
The FAA has notified Mayor Richard M. Daley and the city of Chicago that it has opened a formal complaint docket to consider AOPA's allegations that the city violated federal regulations when it closed Meigs Field airport without proper notice.
April 11, 2003
A small victory for Meigs Field this afternoon: A Cook County judge rejected the city of Chicago's attempt to have one of the lawsuits dismissed immediately. As was expected, the judge deferred a hearing on the city's motion to dismiss until May 16, the date originally set for the court to hear the Friends of Meigs lawsuit. (No hearing has yet been scheduled in AOPA's federal lawsuit.)
In the meantime, a temporary restraining order obtained by the Friends of Meigs will prevent the city from further damaging the facilities at the field.
April 9, 2003
The hearing was supposed to be about the FAA Reauthorization Bill, but AOPA President Phil Boyer used the forum to urge members of Congress to step in and deal with the destruction of Chicago's Merrill C. Meigs Field. He told the members of the House aviation subcommittee that AOPA would use every legislative and legal means available to reopen the airport.
In an audiovisual presentation, Boyer used video clips to emphasize the value of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's word, showing the mayor shaking hands with then-Illinois Governor George Ryan on a deal to save Meigs and of Daley saying just nine days before the closure that claims of homeland security issues would not be used to shut the airport down.
Boyer said the closure has stirred up AOPA's membership like nothing in recent memory. "We have received a higher volume of e-mails and phone calls about Meigs than about the closure of the entire National Airspace System in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks," he told them.
Read Boyer's written testimony to the House aviation subcommittee.
Photo: AOPA President Phil Boyer testifies before the House aviation subcommittee.
The headline in today's Chicago Sun-Times said it best: Daley's Meigs alibi crumbles. The article continues, "Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge blew Mayor Daley's cover story on Meigs Field on Tuesday. Around the same time, in Chicago, the mayor confessed he bulldozed the airport to make it a park and not because of security.
"Ridge said his agency was never consulted over whether the lakefront airport presented a security threat to the city and was personally 'disappointed' to see Meigs closed," the Sun-Times reported.
The destruction of Meigs continues to be major news in Chicago. Previous days' stories have reported AOPA's filing of a federal lawsuit against the city and the association's call for a boycott of Chicago.
Photo: Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.
April 8, 2003
AOPA President Phil Boyer will take general aviation's concerns directly to Congress on Wednesday, when he testifies before the House aviation subcommittee. First and foremost in his testimony will be the destruction of the runway at Merrill C. Meigs Field in Chicago.
Photo: AOPA President Phil Boyer during earlier testimony before the House aviation subcommittee.
Moving forward with the AOPA 12-point plan for the restoration of Meigs Field airport in Chicago, AOPA General Counsel John Yodice and Associate Counsel Kathy Yodice yesterday met with the acting FAA chief counsel and a senior attorney from the FAA's airports legal division.
AOPA pressed the FAA to review all legal options that may be available to the agency to preserve Meigs Field. The FAA attorneys concurred with AOPA's analysis that the traditional legal means of keeping an airport open—enforcement of grant assurances—don't apply to Meigs because all federal grants have expired. AOPA also asked the FAA to act expeditiously on the association's formal Part 157 complaint concerning Chicago's failure to follow federal notification regulations when it destroyed the Meigs runway.
AOPA photo by Mark Schaible.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chair of the Senate committee that determines how much federal money will be designated for various public works projects in Illinois, came out swinging against Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley yesterday.
"I'm a little ashamed of Chicago right now," Inhofe told a public hearing in the Windy City. He called Mayor Daley's midnight raid on Meigs Field "an act of arrogant recklessness reminiscent of the 1920s, not the 21st century."
And Inhofe intimated that Daley's destruction might have an impact on federal funding for other Chicago projects. "Tearing up a runway is destroying infrastructure," Inhofe said during the hearing. "If you willfully go out and destroy infrastructure, the way that the mayor did, then it is a little inconsistent to came back and have a hearing to see what kind of infrastructure needs there are in Illinois."
Later, in an exclusive interview with AOPA, Inhofe reemphasized the point. "How can Mayor Daley expect me to be sensitive to Chicago's infrastructure needs when he goes out in the middle of the night and tears up millions of dollars of infrastructure?"
Photo: Sen. James Inhofe.
April 7, 2003
AOPA 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."
April 6, 2003
Chicago residents woke up this morning to find full-page ads from AOPA in their Sunday newspapers. The ads, which run today and Monday in the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, the city's two largest newspapers, are billed as an "open letter" to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley on the "destruction of Meigs Field."
"We played fair with you," begins the letter from AOPA President Phil Boyer. Recalling the decade of lobbying, legislation, and legal action to preserve Meigs, Boyer reminded the mayor he had promised to keep the airport open for at least 25 years.
"We took you at your word," the letter continues, but "you opened fire on us by bulldozing the airport in the middle of the night. Not to protect the city from terrorist attacks. No, Mr. Mayor, you wantonly destroyed Meigs Field under cover of darkness because you knew that deception and lies could get you what free and open debate could not. And that you could get away with it.
"I would say, 'Shame!" But it is obvious that you have none.
"Now, the time for playing fair is over."
April 4, 2003
AOPA, the world's largest civil aviation organization, today filed formal complaints with both the FAA 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."
Photo by Marshall Segal.
A Cook County (Illinois) Circuit Court judge this afternoon issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the city of Chicago from doing any more damage to Meigs Field airport. That action came after Friends of Meigs and other local groups filed a lawsuit this morning to stop the destruction of the airport. The TRO blocks the city until the case is tried on May 16.
AOPA is already hearing from members who are planning to boycott the city of Chicago and any business located there until Merrill C. Meigs Field is reopened.
One member who is scheduled to exhibit at a convention in Chicago sent AOPA a copy of a letter he'd sent to Mayor Richard M. Daley's office. "We had planned to bring our personnel and equipment into Meigs Field. It is too late to cancel our attendance due to booth space commitments. However, we will reduce the number of employees attending the event from eight to two. We will not attend future conferences in Chicago and will avoid commercial flights to Chicago or flights that connect in Chicago until Meigs is reopened."
"AOPA will bring all possible pressure to bear on Mayor Daley," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Pilots are letting Daley know that his destruction of this valuable airport has consequences."
Let Mayor Daley and Gov. Blagojevich know what you think of the Meigs field closure.
April 3, 2003
Just three short days after Mayor Daley's sneak attack on Meigs Field airport, AOPA has developed a comprehensive plan to restore the airport. The 12-point plan combines legal, legislative, and public-relations tactics. The plan is designed not only to return aircraft to Meigs, but to also shield airports everywhere from Daley-like attacks.
"The plan includes both short- and longer term initiatives, so it won't be quick and it won't be easy," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, "but the nation's general aviation pilots want to ensure that Meigs will never happen again."
April 2, 2003
Mayor Daley may have won the battle with his sneak attack on Meigs Field airport, but the war is far from over.
Taking a line from Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones, AOPA President Phil Boyer said, "We have not yet begun to fight. Pilots around the world are incensed by Daley's wanton destruction of Meigs. We're going to use every guerrilla tactic in the book to restore that airport. And if in the end that fails, at the very least we'll make Daley feel the pain."
Battle planning continued Wednesday afternoon as AOPA General Counsel John Yodice canceled a planned trip to Sun 'n Fun to continue strategizing with Boyer, who also canceled his planned trip to this major airshow. (Boyer instead will be traveling to Chicago Friday to keep the heat on Daley in the local media.)
Working into the evening, Boyer, Yodice, and AOPA attorney Ron Golden plotted the next salvo, while AOPA Senior Vice President Andy Cebula and Legislative Affairs Director Julia Krauss worked legislative strategy on Capitol Hill.
Photo: AOPA General Counsel John Yodice (right) canceled today's flight to Sun 'n Fun to continue Meigs battle planning with Phil Boyer and AOPA attorney Ron Golden.
Members of the General Aviation Coalition (GAC), including AOPA and representing virtually every aspect of general aviation, are calling on President Bush to speak out against Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's destruction of Merrill C. Meigs Field and take steps to prevent any similar local action in other communities.
In a joint letter to the President, GAC members said, "We are concerned about who is responsible for decisions affecting national security. The general aviation community...is shocked and outraged that a mayor, using the pretext of national security, can destroy a national asset, create a significant safety risk and reduce capacity in an area already faced with significant aviation congestion."
"Working with the GAC is just one of the fronts on which AOPA plans to fight the Meigs closure," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
Update: April 2, 2003
It's been a day of red tape and frustration for pilots stranded at Meigs Field airport, but in yet another turn-around, pilots have been released for departure now. North takeoffs have suddenly been authorized (into today's prevailing wind), and at least five pilots are preparing to go. Officials are attempting to notify the other pilots.
The city had issued a local notam authorizing the use of the 3,100-foot taxiway at Meigs as a runway for departures to the south only. But with the winds blowing at 15-20 knots out of the north all day, the city late this afternoon opted to authorize north departures.
April 1, 2003
Within the first day after Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley destroyed the runway at Merrill C. Meigs Field, fully half of the owners whose aircraft are stranded turned to AOPA for help in escaping Daley's snare.
"What we've got to do now is help those 16 victims of Daley's war against Meigs get their aircraft back safely," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "At this point, there isn't much hope of Meigs reopening."
AOPA has worked with the FAA and the city of Chicago to help spring the trapped aircraft. Among other things, AOPA provided aircraft performance data to help determine if the Meigs taxiway could be used safely as a runway.
"The 3,100-foot taxiway will be used for departures, with certain stipulations," said Woody Cahall, AOPA's vice president of aviation services. "The FAA's Great Lakes Region will hold a meeting on Wednesday morning to work out process and procedures for the stranded aircraft to depart."
The worldwide reaction against Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's destruction of Meigs Field airport has been universal. To sum it all up, AOPA commissioned Wes Oleszewski, creator of the Klyde Morris cartoon strip, to create special cartoons for AOPA Online.
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley is drawing nearly universal condemnation for his middle-of-the night raid to close Merrill C. Meigs Field. Editorials in Chicago's two major daily newspapers used phrases like "banana republic general" and "naked exercise of power" to describe the mayor and his tactics.
General aviation associations, the air traffic controllers union, and even the FAA voiced strong concerns about Daley's tactics.
But perhaps the strongest condemnations come from the Chicago papers. Editorials in the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times attacked Daley for ignoring the democratic process.
March 31, 2003
As pilots around the world react with shock and anger to the destruction of Chicago's Meigs Field airport, many are asking the questions, "How could this happen?" and "Could it happen to my airport?"
"Mayor Daley tore up Meigs because he could," said AOPA's chief legal counsel John Yodice. "He could do it because of legal circumstances that apply only to Meigs, and, of course, special political considerations unique to Chicago. Those conditions don't apply to other airports." Daley has never made it a secret that he wanted to close the airport and replace it with a "park."
News of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's ambush closure of Merrill C. Meigs Field had hardly broken this morning before AOPA began hearing from its members.
In calls and e-mails to the Pilot Information Center and AOPA President Phil Boyer, members expressed shock and dismay.
"If this action is allowed to stand without protest," wrote one member, "I then can only conclude that general aviation is truly dying in America.... If this is allowed to stand, I may as well sell my plane, cancel all my CFI training, and hang up my goggles."
To express your sentiments regarding the closure and destruction of Meigs Field, contact Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley or Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
Update: March 31, 2003
Sneaking in under the cover of darkness, city of Chicago construction crews began tearing up the runway at Meigs Field this morning at about 1:30 a.m. There was no advance warning, not even to the FAA. Some 16 aircraft are stranded on the field. A city source told the Chicago media that the "airport is closed for good" for "homeland security reasons."
"We are absolutely shocked and dismayed," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Mayor Daley has no honor, and his word has no value. The sneaky way he did this shows that he knows it was wrong."
Boyer immediately fired faxes off to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey and Transportation Security Administration chief Adm. James M. Loy to discuss possible solutions.
"During a period when the country is at war in the Middle East, why must the mayor of Chicago also play dictator with a most valuable airport and cause additional turmoil inside our own country?" asked Boyer.
"While federal and state airport laws may not have been broken by this action, in December 2001 he pledged to keep the airport open, in support of federal legislation that granted him expansion of O'Hare airport. The mayor has broken his promise not only to the citizens of his own city, but also to the pilots of America.
"We will once again explore the legality of this action, but past research indicates that the law hasn't been broken," Boyer continued. "However, we're not going to allow the mayor to hide behind the fiction of 'homeland security' for his reprehensible action."
Photo: City of Chicago suddenly tears up the Meigs Field runway, stranding some 16 aircraft. AOPA photo by Mark Schaible.
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