AOPA testified in favor of Meigs Field airport last night at a public meeting conducted by Illinois Governor George Ryan.
"Meigs Field should be part of the plan for Chicago-area aviation growth," read the AOPA testimony. "At a time when the nation has set a goal of adding 50 miles of new runway to reduce delays and congestion, each Chicago-area airport is critical. Meigs should remain open."
AOPA's position was presented by Bill Blake, AOPA Great Lakes regional representative. Blake is the former aeronautics director for the state of Illinois. He worked directly with current Illinois Secretary of Transportation Kirk Brown.
The hearing in Tinley Park, a few miles southwest of Chicago, attracted more than 1,000 people to comment on Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's proposal to expand O'Hare International Airport. Daley also plans to close Meigs Field, the closest general aviation reliever airport to O'Hare and Midway airports. Governor Ryan has conducted four hearings on the plan.
AOPA testified that closing Meigs would increase flight delays at Midway, with flight delays eventually increasing to more than 15 minutes if Meigs were to close.
General aviation flight operations at Palwaukee and O'Hare airports would also increase, and that would have an impact on air traffic flows for the entire region.
"As a member of the O'Hare Delay Task Force, AOPA is helping to identify solutions to congestion since we believe any changes at O'Hare will affect aircraft flying throughout the entire region," Blake testified. "We see an important part of the regional solution is improving capacity, not reducing it."
AOPA argued that Chicago's airport planning must incorporate the 14 general aviation airports in the region, including Meigs Field, as part of the solution to congestion problems at O'Hare and Midway airports.
Illinois Governor Ryan will offer a counterproposal to Mayor Daley's airport plan, and he could veto the mayor's O'Hare expansion. Ryan supports building a new airport for Chicago near Peotone and keeping Meigs open.
"What I've gotten so far is that a lot of people feel that it's going to take a solution at O'Hare, along with Peotone and to keep Meigs open," Ryan told the Chicago Tribune, commenting on what he's learned from the hearings. "Meigs is a big part of the discussions that we've had. I haven't heard anyone tell us to close Meigs Field."
The 375,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than 58 percent of the nation's pilots are AOPA members.