While pilots would love to see a longer runway at Chicago Executive Airport for safety, in this case, economically, it just does not make sense. The public will not stand for the spending that will be involved.
The last cost estimate, seven years ago, to extend the airport's runway to 7,000 feet, plus an additional 1,000 feet of required overrun, was $75 million. Today, that cost could double.
Construction would require a Palatine Road tunnel under the proposed runway and taxiway, plus it would displace many families from their homes.
Because of O'Hare International Airport's new north runway, takeoffs to the south from CEA, which straddles the border of Wheeling and Prospect Heights, will be restricted or not permitted at all on account of insufficient air traffic separation. Circling landings to the north will be restricted as well.
If there is one takeoff per week to international destinations in the Far East or the Middle East, over 10 years the cost to the taxpayer will be $144,230 per takeoff, based on the low estimate, just to allow that flight to avoid a stop in Anchorage for a travel break and fuel.
Even if there is as many as one takeoff per day requiring that runway, the cost is still $20,547 for each takeoff.
Yes, large companies with the private jets that are based at CEA may have occasional business in Japan, China or the Middle East and want to fly their executives there nonstop, but on that day for that occasional trip, they could instead reposition their airplane eight miles south to O'Hare and depart from the easy-to-use Corporate Jet General Aviation terminal. Then they will have 13,000 feet of runway for takeoff.
What's wrong with that plan, rather than imposing an enormous expense on the public to supplement the cost of each corporate jet taking off from CEA to faraway international destinations, tying up construction traffic on Palatine Road for a year and displacing hundreds of families from their homes, to say nothing of the enlarged noise footprint?
George J. Priester had great foresight when he built the existing 5,000-foot-long runway. It serves the airport and the jet traffic well. Since then, the newer jets are more advanced and use less runway to operate rather than what was required years ago. Many of the newer corporate jets can fly anywhere in the 48 states nonstop from CEA, and some can fly nonstop to Anchorage or Europe.
CEA should stop wasting money on runway study after runway study, all of which have already been done.
Seven years ago, realizing the political impossibility of taking the airport across Palatine Road, the airport board took the direction of enhancing safety for takeoffs and landings on the jet runway.
Yes, a longer runway would be great for many reasons, and I like the proposed plan for all of those reasons, but it will never happen. There is just too much population around the airport that will say no.
The public comments will be along the lines of all the reasons listed here, and just who will comment? Any one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of people being forced out of their homes to accommodate this project.
To be sure, that group will be the most vocal. After all, the airport is trying to take their homes away. What would you do? Other citizens in Prospect Heights, Wheeling and even Mount Prospect will publicly object, too. The airport's surrounding neighbors just do not want major disruptions to their lives or an increase in jet traffic and noise. And, once those to the north of the airport learn that possibly all jet departures will be in their direction because of the O'Hare conflict, they will comment loud and clear too.
The runway extension at Chicago Executive Airport has been a dead issue in the past; so please, just let it stay that way and save everyone a lot of time and money.
• E. Allan Englehardt is a pilot and a former chairman of the Chicago Executive Airport board.