Each day, a system of more than 30 monitors measures noise near O'Hare International Airport.
The number of noise monitors at Chicago Executive Airport, the third busiest in the state?
A paltry zero.
Chicago Executive doesn't keep tabs on noise from aircraft engines. But that could change with a push by leaders from municipalities that jointly own the airport to start crunching the data as part of an overdue master plan.
Neighbors have long urged the airport to take stock of the decibel levels around CEA, confident that the numbers will validate their complaints of engine noise so loud it jolts them out of a sound sleep.
The second draft of the airport's 2016 budget sets aside $20,000 toward addressing noise. The Wheeling village board will vote on the spending plan Monday night, and then the Prospect Heights city council will follow suit. Both towns have to approve the budget for it to take effect.
The money could pay for consulting fees, CEA Executive Director Jamie Abbott said. The airport also is exploring whether to tap into one of O'Hare's noise monitors. The closest one, Abbott says, is in Mount Prospect.
And after attending a meeting of the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission, officials are considering replicating a fly-quiet manual for CEA pilots.
Wheeling Village President Dean Argiris called for including the funds to address noise in the budget during a joint meeting with trustees and Prospect Heights aldermen last week. "Be more proactive instead of having a consultant or somebody coming back to us a year or two from now and say, 'You need to do this. We need to get these numbers together,'" said Argiris, adding that the monitoring could lead to opportunities such as soundproofing for homes.
Airport neighbor Steve Neff, a frequent critic of noise, said he was pleased by the move but added that $20,000 is barely enough to pay for one monitor to measure the noise. He also suggested the airport could save money by having high school students in STEM classes (science, engineering, technology and math) compile the data from monitors.
Neff said noise has increased over the years, and his only recourse now is to phone the airport.
"It's affecting my health and my quality of life, and it's waking up my family," Neff said.
He had started to doze off around 10:30 one night when he heard what "sounded like a 747" taking off. He called to complain and was told that the culprit was an older Falcon 20 model.
Neff's response? "So tell him not to come back."
Wheeling Trustee Mary Papantos, a member of Citizens Against Runway Expansion, praised the airport for budgeting the $20,000, but she said she wants the airport to consider curfews.
The airport's consultants have said curfews are a tough sell with federal aviation regulators. To which Papantos says, "Why can't we try?"