AOPA today offered its support for legislation that will keep Chicago's Meigs Field open until 2026. In testimony before the House aviation subcommittee, AOPA strongly endorsed H.R.3479, a bill that would expand aviation capacity in the Chicago area and writes into law the agreement between Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Illinois Governor George Ryan to keep Meigs Field open.
In testimony presented to the subcommittee, AOPA President Phil Boyer said that the bill reflected the importance of the Chicago airports to the entire national aviation system.
"This is not just an Illinois issue. There is a national benefit to meeting capacity needs by keeping Meigs Field open, expanding O'Hare, and building a new airport at Peotone."
Noting that air traffic counts are quickly returning to pre-September 11 levels, and that more people today are turning to general aviation, Boyer told Congress, "Shutting down a perfectly good airport makes little sense when we are desperately trying to expand capacity.... The 14 general aviation airports in the area, including Meigs Field, are part of the solution to airspace congestion in the Chicago area and the overall system."
During the March 6 afternoon hearing, Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) called the agreement "the most important dialogue in aviation today."
Governor George Ryan noted the important role Meigs Field plays in the area economy and praised the concession made by Mayor Daley to keep it open. Mayor Daley stated that the agreement would vastly improve the national aviation system and explicitly mentioned the "key support of such nationally recognized aviation groups...as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association" in keeping Meigs open.
Representatives (and AOPA members) Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) and Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) also praised the provision to save Meigs Field. Ehlers called the legislation "a stellar agreement on Meigs" and added that it is important that Illinois "hang on to it," while Boswell referred to Meigs as "a very needed thing that I hope will be around for a long time."
In addition to the Meigs provision, the bill calls for expanding runways at O'Hare International Airport and the construction of a third Chicago-land airport near Peotone, Illinois. This measure has drawn strong opposition from some members of the Illinois delegation, including reps. Henry Hyde (R) and Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D). Other members of the aviation subcommittee have also expressed environmental concerns with the Chicago expansion. These concerns mean that the bill may undergo changes before the subcommittee finally votes it on. However, there have been no concerns expressed over the Meigs provision, and that language is expected to remain unaltered.