Aircraft din raising a ruckus in Chicago mayoral election

With just a few days left until Chicago's mayoral election, a renewed din from O'Hare International Airport is putting the noise issue front and center.

About 1,265 noise complaints were submitted to the Fair Allocation in Runways, or FAIR, citizens group between 9 and 11 a.m. Tuesday. Complaints rose from 134,007 in February to 397,306 in March, the coalition of city and suburbs reported.

Glen Ellyn resident Kevin Carlson began noticing a racket from aircraft on Thursday.

Tuesday, he filed a complaint with the city of Chicago after an early bird flight at 5:10 a.m.

As of midafternoon, “they are coming overhead at sometimes a rate of every three minutes. I say sometimes because there can be longer periods between over-flys and some days not at all,” Carlson said.

The cacophony came out of the blue, he explained.

“We were not notified that this could happen in our area during when the O'Hare expansion was being discussed,” he said.

FAIR organized a rally outside the WTTW studios Tuesday in time for the Chicago mayor debate between incumbent Rahm Emanuel and challenger Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. The election is April 7.

Despite assertions that the ruckus from jets falls on the shoulders of the Federal Aviation Authority, “the city owns O'Hare, and the mayor owns the issue,” Fair Co-Founder Jac Charlier said. The anti-noise group numbers Chicago and suburban residents, as well as civic organizations, among its members.

“It's the city's (modernization) plan,” Charlier said.

Chicago is in the midst of adding a parallel runway structure to O'Hare. The airport shifted to an east-west arrival and departure flow instead of using runways pointing in multiple directions in fall 2013 after the completion of a second new runway.

FAIR is pushing to preserve the diagonal runway system, and Garcia came out with a similar stance last week.

At Tuesday's WTTW debate on “Chicago Tonight,” Garcia criticized Emanuel for not meeting with homeowners.

“It's their greatest investment,” he said. “Why not meet, why not engage? I went and met with them. That's what a mayor should do. I support keeping the old runways as well as utilizing the new ones and engaging in measures to mitigate the noise around the airport.

Emanuel countered that he had met with aldermen and residents. He recently asked the FAA to expedite a report on airport conditions and added he was open to using the diagonal runways.

“I called upon the FAA to speed up the report so we can evenly take all the runways ... so no two communities on the flight pattern bear all the burden for O'Hare's growth,” Emanuel said. “It's a major economic engine but it's not evenly felt across the whole area. You can insulate your home, you can't insulate your outside.”

The east-west move is sending planes over previously quiet neighborhoods, such as Kathy Schiller's in Winfield.

“Recently, in the last three weeks, I feel like I'm living next to O'Hare or Midway,” she said. “It's terrible.”

FAA officials said there have been no significant changes in arrival and departure patterns recently to explain the spike in public concern. Noise concerns also could relate to the warmer weather, as more people open windows and spend time outside.

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Jesus "Chuy" Garcia gives his plan to reduce O'Hare noise Friday. Courtesy of Chuy Garcia campaign
  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel tours the renovated International Terminal at O'Hare. Joe Lewnard/, April 2014
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