AOPA unveils 12-point plan for Meigs

The Honorable Marion C. Blakey
Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration
c/o Office of the Chief Counsel
Attention: Enforcement Docket (AGC-10)
800 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20591

Dear Madame Blakey:

Pursuant to 14 C.F.R. Section 13.5, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) hereby files a formal complaint with respect to actions taken by the City of Chicago and the Mayor of the City of Chicago to alter and deactivate the public use and reliever airport of Merrill C. Meigs Field. AOPA alleges that the City of Chicago has violated provisions of 14 C.F.R. Part 157 and 49 U.S.C. Section 44502(c)(2). As such, AOPA requests that the FAA seek all appropriate remedies, including that the FAA issue a cease and desist order to prevent any further destruction or alteration of the airport followed by a request to the United States Attorney General to bring an action in the United States District Court for such relief as necessary or appropriate, see 14 C.F.R. §§ 13.20 and 13.25, and that the FAA take immediate and appropriate enforcement action seeking sanctions, see 14 C.F.R. §§ 13.16 and 13.16. These are matters that are within the jurisdiction of the Administrator of the FAA.

In accordance with the procedures required by Section 13.5, AOPA submits the following:

Person who is the subject of this complaint:

The City of Chicago and its Mayor Richard M. Daley
121 N. LaSalle, Room 507
Chicago, IL 60602

Specific provisions violated:

14 C.F.R. Sections 157.3(b), 157.3(c), 157.3(e), 157.5(a)
49 C.F.R. Section 44502(c)(2)

Concise statement of facts:

In the very early morning hours of March 31, 2003, the city of Chicago caused demolition equipment and crews to dig " X"'s in the asphalt of the single and sole runway at Meigs Field, thereby rendering the runway and the airport unusable as an airport. The city took this unprecedented action without prior notice to the Federal Aviation Administration, without prior notice to the users of the airport, without prior notice to the tenants of the airport, without prior notice to the aircraft parked at the airport at the time of the destruction, and without prior notice to citizens of Chicago. The city's actions were meant to be immediate and final. See enclosed "Statement from City Hall."

In order for the secretary of Transportation to fulfill his statutory obligations to ensure conformity with plans and policies for, and allocation of, airspace by the administrator of the FAA, the law requires that "an airport or landing area not involving the expenditure of government money may be established or constructed, or a runway may be altered substantially, only if the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration is given reasonable prior notice so that the administrator may provide advice on the effects of the establishment, construction, or alteration of airspace by aircraft." 49 U.S.C § 44502(c)(2) (emphasis added). In order to carry out this obligation, the FAA promulgated Part 157 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. FAR Part 157 provides, in part, that each person who intends to alter a runway, deactivate an airport or runway, or change the status of an airport, shall submit a notice of such intent to an FAA airport district/field office or regional office, on an FAA Form 7480-1, prior to taking the intended action.

On information and belief, the city of Chicago failed to notify the FAA of its intent to cause extensive damage to the only existing runway at Meigs Field and its intent to finally deactivate the airport. The notice was required to be made and sent to an FAA airport district/field office or an FAA regional office, both of which exist in Des Plaines, Illinois, an adjacent suburb of the city of Chicago. As a consequence, the FAA was denied its opportunity to conduct an aeronautical study and to issue a determination, after consultation with interested parties, as appropriate, that the FAA advises that it has no objection, that it has conditional objections, or that it objects. As a further consequence, the FAA's management of the airspace and the aircraft in the vicinity of the city of Chicago has been affected and without the FAA's ability to act to either respond to or mitigate the adverse safety effects of the city's destruction. The FAA was unable to issue a notice to airman who could have been inbound to the airport that there were crews on the runway destroying it, and the FAA was unable to plan for the management of aircraft and airspace changes to accommodate the now-redirected traffic. Such actions by the city of Chicago constitute violations of Sections 157.3 and 157.5 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.

AOPA requests that the FAA take all appropriate action. AOPA specifically requests that the FAA issue an order to the city of Chicago to cease and desist any further alterations at the airport and that the FAA request the attorney general to initiate a lawsuit for similar injunctive relief. In addition, AOPA requests that the FAA initiate legal enforcement action against the city of Chicago for violations of the FAR and the statute.

Person filing the complaint:

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
421 Aviation Way
Frederick, MD 21701

AOPA is a nationwide, nonprofit, membership association of almost 400,000 aircraft owners and pilots who comprise more than two thirds of all the active civil pilots certificated in the United States, and who account for more than two thirds of the flying in this country. AOPA is dedicated to the advancement of that segment of aviation known as general aviation. Of particular concern to the advancement of general aviation is the closure of civil airports throughout the country. This circumstance presents a case of such a loss. AOPA has been very active on the national, state, and local levels in examining issues related to general aviation, in general, and to pilots' access to airports, in particular. As a spokesperson for general aviation interests in the United States, AOPA has frequently participated in proceedings seeking to protect rules, processes, and policies that are in place to protect against the loss or limitation of the use of public airports.


Phil Boyer


April 3, 2003

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