October 12, 2004
If the City of Chicago thought lawmakers and the aviation community would quietly accept its claims that Meigs Field was an "abandoned" airport that had to be bulldozed, it's in for a surprise.
In a December 8 letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), an AOPA member and active GA pilot, called the destruction of Meigs Field a "complete abomination" and Chicago's definition of abandoned property "alarming."
"When the airport was bulldozed under the cover of darkness, 16 aircraft - some arriving just the day prior - were stranded at the popular airport," Inhofe wrote. He went on to say that the city's use of federal funds to destroy a valuable general aviation airport was "insulting" and urged the FAA to continue its efforts to impose the maximum penalties allowed by law.
"It's great to know that GA has powerful friends - and that they won't look the other way and allow this despicable deed to go unpunished," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "It's important for Chicago and other cities to recognize that the aviation community won't stand by while our nation's air transportation system is torn apart."
Much of the current uproar over Meigs is the result of a complaint filed by AOPA with the FAA in February. In response, the FAA initiated an investigation and proposed fining Chicago $33,100, the maximum allowed by law, for failing to provide the required 30-day notice before closing the airport. Last week, Chicago responded to the FAA's notice of investigation with a 40-page legal brief admitting that it spent $2.8 million of O'Hare and Midway airport development funds to destroy Meigs and remove any evidence that it was once an airport.
If the FAA determines Chicago used airport funds improperly, it could fine the city three times the amount of diverted funds. That could make the fine $8.4 million, in addition to $33,100 for improper notification.
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