Illinois mayor saves airport

June 28, 2004

Illinois mayor saves airport
In Meigs' shadow, Bolingbrook improves its GA facility

Click for larger image
Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar and
Phil Boyer at Clow International Airport

Mayor Daley take note: Your neighbors understand the value of a general aviation airport. The village of Bolingbrook, Illinois, just 25 nm southwest of Chicago, last week approved plans to upgrade its newly acquired airport to make it a reliever for the Chicago area. And much of the credit goes to a far-sighted mayor.

"Even though he's not a pilot, Mayor Roger Claar understood the importance of Clow International Airport (1C5) to his community," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, who met with the mayor June 25. "He was determined to not let this airport go the way of so many privately owned airports - into the hands of developers."

In the late 1950s, farmer Boyd Clow fell in love with flying and built a grass airstrip. Before long, other pilots approached him about tying down their aircraft, and the airport ultimately developed into one of the busiest fields in Illinois. Today Clow International Airport sports a thriving FBO, a busy flight school, a popular on-field restaurant, and some 150 based aircraft. (See AOPA Pilot, March 2003.) And the airport is the home of the Illinois Aviation Museum at Bolingbrook. (It was a museum officer who told AOPA about the mayor's support for the airport and museum.)

"Clow Airport has been a model privately owned, public-use airport," said Boyer, "surviving and thriving even as the suburbs have grown around it."

Clow sold the airport to another private owner in 1998. In March of this year, Claar pushed through a $25 million bond issue for the village to buy and upgrade the airport to make it more attractive to corporate operators. Improvement plans include widening and lengthening the runway to 4,000 feet, adding new runway lights, and building more hangars and a pilot facility.

"Bolingbrook understands that a vital general aviation airport is key to a community's economic growth," said Boyer. In fact, the village has aired AOPA's video Local Airports - Access to America continuously on its cable access channel.

On Friday, Boyer and Claar discussed options to better develop the airport while maintaining its uniqueness as a small GA facility in a modern community. Boyer suggested the village look at other airports in similar circumstances, particularly Illinois' Schaumburg Regional Airport and Albert Whitted Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Boyer also suggested that the village promote the airport on its Web site and that the FBOs have brochures available for transient pilots to show what Bolingbrook has to offer.

"What a startling contrast between Chicago and Bolingbrook," said Boyer. "We'll never forget that the Chicago area was hit with the most dramatic airport closure ever when Mayor Daley ordered the bulldozers to attack the runway. And we'll always remember that Mayor Claar and Bolingbrook value highly their general aviation airport."

June 28, 2004