Just three short days after Mayor Daley's sneak attack on Meigs Field airport, AOPA has developed a comprehensive plan to restore the airport. The 12-point plan combines legal, legislative, and public-relations tactics. The plan is designed not only to return aircraft to Meigs, but to also shield airports everywhere from Daley-like attacks.
"The plan includes both short- and longer term initiatives, so it won't be quick and it won't be easy," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, "but the nation's general aviation pilots want to ensure that Meigs will never happen again."
- AOPA is filing an injunction to prevent further destruction of the airport.
- The association is filing a formal complaint with the FAA regarding Daley's violation of federal regulations, specifically FAR Part 157 that requires at least a 30-day notice before closing an airport. Further, AOPA is demanding that the FAA deny federal funding for Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports until Meigs is reopened.
- AOPA is filing a formal complaint with the Illinois Department of Transportation on Daley's violation of state regulations requiring approval for the "alteration of an existing airport."
- AOPA's 400,000 members (many of whom own or manage businesses or are influential in major organizations) are asked to boycott Chicago and to urge their trade, professional, and business associations to not hold meetings and conventions in the city. If traveling by airline, members should avoid flights landing in Chicago.
Short-term actions (within the week)
- AOPA Legislative Affairs will lobby Congress for federal legislation to reopen Meigs Field. Member support will be critical in this effort; when the time is right, AOPA will ask members to contact their congressional representatives.
- The AOPA Legal Services Plan's more than 600 panel attorneys will be pressed into service as a "brain bank" to help develop additional legal arguments. Environmental regulations, the rights of the owners of the stranded aircraft, the legal necessity for coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, and other state and local laws are being investigated.
- AOPA's general counsel will meet with the Department of Transportation's general counsel and the FAA's chief counsel to seek remedies through those entities.
- The association is offering assistance to any of the pilots whose planes were trapped at Meigs to pursue claims against the city of Chicago, if they or their attorneys request it.
- AOPA is placing full-page advertisements in the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, containing an open letter to the mayor and city residents explaining the outrage of America's pilots to Daley's unprecedented action.
Longer term actions
- AOPA will ask the Department of Homeland Security to issue an order prohibiting restrictions or closures of public airports on the basis of a security claim without its concurrence and a specific threat.
- AOPA will seek emergency legislation to allow the state of Illinois to purchase Meigs from Chicago.
- AOPA Legislative Affairs will oppose any attempt by the city of Chicago to use federal or state funds for the $27 million park that is slated to replace Meigs.
"We're going to show politicians around the nation that airports are important, and general aviation pilots will defend them," said Boyer.