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posted: 8/2/2017 1:00 AM

Editorial: In search of O'Hare Airport noise relief

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  • Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyherald.comLow-flying jets prepare to land at O'Hare International Airport running parallel to the houses on Hillside Drive in Bensenville.

    Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyherald.comLow-flying jets prepare to land at O'Hare International Airport running parallel to the houses on Hillside Drive in Bensenville.

 

If you live near O'Hare International Airport, the term "Fly Quiet" may be a misnomer.

But when it comes to overnight flights, it's an important term that is in need of refining.

The current "Fly Quiet" program was put in place to comfort homeowners by using designated runways.

"It has served a purpose," said Barry Cooper, outgoing Federal Aviation Administration regional administrator. But, he told the Daily Herald's Marni Pyke, "traffic changes and new runways get built and get closed so obviously 'Fly Quiet,' as it has existed, is obsolete."

What then for beleaguered homeowners trying to get a night's sleep?

A permanent rotation of runways being used at night at O'Hare seems to be a reasonable answer. It doesn't' tackle every objection residents in each area have; indeed, it's likely every objection can't be resolved as long as O'Hare remains open.

But given O'Hare's status as an economic engine for the area and a key transportation hub for the country, it's likely that getting some of what you want is good enough.

"We are attempting to create a regional approach to better manage noise by providing predictable periods of sound relief," said Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek, also chairwoman of the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.

The attempt is being tested through 12 weeks of rotating runways that can be used at night. A third runway rotation began July 23. The FAA says the first two rotations proved relatively successful in guaranteeing quieter nights and if the third does as well, the concept could be a permanent solution.

"That's the end game," Cooper said. We like that thought and encourage the FAA, Chicago, O'Hare and the surrounding communities to look seriously at the idea.

Representatives from some suburbs like Des Plaines were upset that the current rotation leaves out a main diagonal runway that could divert some noise elsewhere. Still other representatives, like those from Elmhurst, were happy the diagonal runway was left out.

That's the nature of noise abatement -- one area is happy when another might not be. In this case, it makes sense since that runway is slated to be retired next spring.

But the concern Park Ridge Mayor Marty Maloney raised is understandable: "We're seeing flight patterns we've never seen before ... there's very little predictability."

That's why a permanent rotation once a new runway configuration is set is a good goal and helps the airport become a better neighbor.

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