Sen. Richard J. Durbin
Rep. William Lipinski
Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Representative William Lipinski (D-Ill.) have been named co-recipients of the 2002 Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Hartranft Award for their efforts to ensure that a local agreement saving Chicago's historic Merrill C. Meigs Field would be honored.
The awards were presented at the AOPA Expo 2002 Grand Finale Banquet October 26 in Palm Springs, California.
AOPA's Hartranft Award is presented annually to the political leader or leaders who make the previous year's greatest contribution to the advancement of general aviation.
Sen. Durbin and Rep. Lipinski were named co-winners for introducing and advancing legislation (S.2039 and H.R.3479, respectively) to cement the December 2001 state of Illinois-city of Chicago agreement preserving Meigs Field. Codifying the agreement in federal legislation will help preserve Meigs Field for another 25 years, as well as providing for modernization at O'Hare International Airport and construction of a new airport just south of Chicago.
"Both Senator Durbin and Representative Lipinski worked tirelessly with their colleagues and leadership, not only preserving historic Meigs Field, but also increasing capacity for the heart of the national aviation system," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, in presenting the award. "Together, these two forged legislation restoring efficiency to the nation's airspace."
Opened in 1948, Chicago's Merrill C. Meigs Field has long been an important reliever airport to Midway and O'Hare airports, with about 50,000 operations per year. Located on Lake Michigan, the airport's single runway allows aircraft to arrive and depart over the water rather than the city itself, leaving the noise footprint over the lake rather than over inhabited areas.
In 1994, however, Mayor Richard J. Daley announced that Meigs would be closed and the grounds turned into a park. AOPA joined with local pilots in what would eventually become an eight-year battle to save the historic airport, participating in lawsuits, lobbying the Illinois legislature and Congress, and producing television commercials and newspaper ads to gain legislative and public support.
The airport actually closed for a brief period of time in 1996, but with the settlement of the suit, the city agreed to leave it temporarily open until February 2002. Shortly before Meigs was to be closed permanently this year, Illinois Governor George Ryan and the Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley reached an accord to leave Meigs open for at least 25 years as part of a larger package improving O'Hare International Airport and building a new airport at Peotone.
"Senator Durbin and Representative Lipinski have proven themselves invaluable friends of general aviation pilots everywhere," said Boyer. "Both richly deserve this 2002 Hartranft Award."
Durbin has served in Congress since 1982 and sits on four Senate committees: Appropriations, Governmental Affairs, Intelligence, and Judiciary. Lipinski, first elected in 1975, sits on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and serves as the ranking member on the subcommittee on aviation.
The AOPA Hartranft Award is one of the pilot association's two highest awards of the year. It is named for J. B. "Doc" Hartranft, AOPA's first employee and president of the association for nearly 38 years. Hartranft passed away in February this year.
The honorees are selected by vote of the AOPA Board of Trustees.