Illinois Governor George Ryan says he's going to lobby Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to keep Meigs Field airport open. An article in the June 14 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Ryan saying, "It's time to start thinking about Meigs Field.... [It] should be part of a master plan for air transportation. Meigs Field is an important part of that plan."
The governor told the paper that when he sits down to discuss plans for Chicago-area aviation growth with Mayor Richard M. Daley, keeping Meigs Field open should be part of the conversation.
In a letter thanking Governor Ryan, AOPA President Phil Boyer said, "We couldn't agree more.... As a participant in the Chicago Delay Task Force, AOPA believes that Meigs is truly a part of the region's capacity and should not be closed."
But Mayor Daley remains intractable. In a bluntly worded response, Daley said, "No one can seriously argue that retaining a small, general aviation airport will help relieve the congestion and delays that threaten the long-term economic viability of Chicago's major airports. We should not let Meigs Field divert us from seeking a regional solution to this much larger problem."
"The mayor misses the point," said Boyer. "The 14 general aviation airports in the Chicago area, including Meigs, are part of the solution. Close Meigs and the 48,000 flights per year using that airport will go to the next closest—O'Hare and Midway. And that will have an impact on congestion and delays."
That view is shared by the FAA and the aviation industry.
The FAA's 10-year Operational Evolution Plan (OEP) to reduce air traffic delays and improve capacity states, "Secondary and 'reliever' airports manage 40 to 60 percent of the air traffic in the vicinity of the benchmark airports. The ability of these secondary airports to serve this traffic efficiently is key to successful operations at the benchmark airports. To achieve greater capacity at the benchmark airports, the community must address the needs of these other airports in the regions...."
(O'Hare and Midway are two of the 31 delay-plagued "benchmark" airports. Meigs is an FAA-designated reliever airport to both.) Boyer said, "Closing Meigs would be equivalent to eliminating a perfectly good off-ramp from the interstate highway system.
"Chicago is the poster child for the nation in airline delays. How can a community consider closing any runway in the area in this time? The cry is: Let's build more runways."
The 370,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than 57 percent of the nation's pilots are AOPA members, as are some 13,000 Illinois pilots.