Sen. Richard J. Durbin and
AOPA President Phil Boyer
AOPA President Phil Boyer today presented the association's Hartranft Award to Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) during a Capitol Hill visit. Sen. Durbin was recognized for his efforts to ensure that a local agreement saving Chicago's historic Merrill C. Meigs Field would be honored. He was unable to accept the award at AOPA Expo last year in Palm Springs, Calif., due to a schedule conflict. Rep. William Lipinski (D-Ill.) was a co-winner of the award.
"They worked tirelessly with their colleagues and leadership to simultaneously preserve Meigs and increase capacity in a crucial link of the national aviation system," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Senator Durbin and Representative Lipinski have proven themselves invaluable friends of general aviation pilots everywhere."
The Hartranft Award, one of the highest honors bestowed by AOPA, is presented annually to the political leader or leaders who made the previous year's greatest contribution to the advancement of general aviation. It is named for J.B. "Doc" Hartranft, AOPA's first employee and president of the association for nearly 38 years.
Sen. Durbin and Representative William Lipinski (D-Ill.) were named co-winners for 2002 because they introduced and advanced legislation (S.2039 and H.R.3479, respectively) to cement the December 2001 state of Illinois/city of Chicago agreement preserving Meigs Field. Federal codification will help preserve Meigs Field, as well as provide for modernization at O'Hare International Airport and construction of a new airport just south of Chicago.
(The legislation did not pass before Congress adjourned last year. Sen. Durbin reintroduced the bill (S.83) in the Senate in January. Rep. Lipinski reintroduced it (H.R.592) in the House Wednesday evening.)
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.
Shortly before Meigs was to be closed permanently in 2002, Illinois Governor George Ryan and 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.