Honorable Rod R. Blagojevich
207 State Capitol Building
State of Illinois
Springfield, IL 62706
Dear Governor Blagojevich:
As president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), representing nearly 400,000 members nationwide, I want to express our extreme disappointment in the closure of Chicago's Meigs Field. The airport has become an icon across the nation and around the world, and a strong sense of loss pervades the aviation community. As a previous resident of Chicago and general manager of WLS, the longtime controversy surrounding Meigs Field is not new to me.
Since Mayor Richard M. Daley's pre-dawn destruction of the runways (without any advance notice to aircraft operators or the fixed-base operator on the field) at Meigs Field airport, I have heard from more association members outraged by these actions than during the total grounding of general aviation in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. For the past 12 years, AOPA has worked diligently to safeguard and preserve this vital downtown airport and still find ourselves in a state of shock.
Looking back, in the months leading to Mayor Daley's 1996 closure of the airport, the association worked with the Illinois Legislature to arrive at what we all believed to be progress toward a long-term solution. But our efforts did not end there. As Governor Ryan and Mayor Daley reached an agreement regarding a new airport at Peotone and O'Hare Airport's expansion plan, the association was pleased that the future of Meigs Field would be cemented as an integral part of this agreement.
As you know from your time in the U.S. Congress, AOPA and many others in the aviation community then turned our attention to Washington, D.C., and supported passage of the federal legislation that would codify this important agreement. Unfortunately, Senator Fitzgerald was able to derail the legislation, and it failed to be approved.
However, we all believed that Mayor Daley's "handshake" agreement with your predecessor would be honored so the gouging of "X's" in the runway at Meigs came as a total surprise to us all.
We are aware of your special relationship with the mayor and that you were supportive of closure of the airport in the name of security. However, Mayor Daley has admitted that the closure was not based on security but a desire to convert Northerly Island into a park—at the expense of the lakefront airport. It is ironic that this occurred at the same time the city claims it needs more capacity. It also ignores the impacts the closure has on air traffic and airports in the Chicago area.
There will be serious ramifications to the mayor's action that may take years to overcome. For example, the association has asked its members to boycott Chicago, and they are responding. We have already received numerous communications from our members indicating that they will do exactly that. And a number of key federal legislators are every bit concerned as we are, indicating that they cannot understand why the city would seek federal money for transportation infrastructure projects while tearing out an aviation resource. These are the same federal legislators that allocate federal funds to cities and states for transportation projects.
During my testimony before the House aviation subcommittee last week, I presented testimony relating our strong opposition to the Meigs closure. With the exception of Representative Lipinski, senior members of the committee shared our concerns and pledged to work with us to introduce legislation to undo what Mayor Daley has done.
My purpose for writing is to advise you firsthand of our disappointment and strong opposition to the closure of Meigs. We are committed to working to see Meigs Field opened once again.
Honorable Michael J. Madigan
Honorable Emil Jones, Jr.
April 16, 2003