AOPA Vice President of Regional Affairs Bill Dunn told an Illinois Senate panel Monday evening that they cannot ignore Meigs Field as the legislature contemplates changes to the Chicago-area system of airports.
"Operations that used to be accommodated at Meigs Field already constrain other nearby airports," Dunn told the members of the Illinois Senate Executive Committee. The committee is working on a bill to allow for the expansion of O'Hare International Airport.
"Chicago's airports are not independent; they operate as a system," Dunn continued. "When considering the future of Chicago's air transportation system, you must not ignore the need to reopen Meigs Field."
Earlier in the day Dunn met with key state senators and their staff to argue for the reopening of Meigs.
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley closed Merrill C. Meigs Field in late March by ordering demolition crews to dig trenches across the airport's 3,900-foot runway in the dead of night. The move forced 16 stranded aircraft to use the parallel taxiway to depart.
Neighbors of Chicago's Midway Airport have already begun complaining to city officials about what they say is increased noise due to a higher volume of general aviation traffic since Meigs was closed.
"Meigs Field is an obvious part of the solution to perceived noise problems at Chicago's other airports and congestion in Chicago's airspace," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And the extra sets of air traffic controllers' eyes watching over Chicago's downtown from the Meigs tower could help ease the workload of other controllers."
At the committee hearing, Dunn concluded by telling the panel members, "We strongly encourage the legislature to address the Meigs Field issue and to allow for the airport's reopening. AOPA and the entire aviation community look forward to working with you to undo this atrocity and to identify ways in which operations can be restored to Meigs Field."
Following Monday evening's testimony, Dunn and AOPA Regional Representative Bill Blake planned to spend much of Tuesday seeking sponsors in the Illinois House and Senate for an amendment stating that it is the intent of the Illinois Legislature that Meigs Field be reopened.
The nearly 400,000 members of AOPA make up the world's largest civil aviation organization. AOPA is committed to ensuring the continued viability, growth, and development of aviation and airports in the United States. Those airports are a vital and critical component of the national transportation system.