O'Hare noise complaints now stretching to St. Charles
Robert Gunther's home on Stonewood Drive in St. Charles is a good 30 miles away from the nearest runway at O'Hare International Airport, but he's constantly aware of why it's known as the world's busiest airport.
On any given day, particularly between 4 and 8 p.m., Gunther tracks the planes using apps on his phone as they take off, land and roar over the St. Charles airspace.
St. Charles O'Hare noise complaintsApril 2015: 249
March 2015: 1,340* (all from one complainant)
February 2015: 82
January 2015: 4*
December 2014: 1
November 2014: 2
October 2014: 1
September 2014: 0
August 2014: 2
July 2014: 0
June 2014: 2
May 2014: 2
April 2014: 0
* all from one complainant
Source: O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission
"On certain days it seems like there is a swarm of planes circling in and around St. Charles," Gunther told St. Charles aldermen this week. "You don't stop hearing the first plane before the next plane kicks in. And it's just the beginning for our city."
Gunther appeared before aldermen to ask for their support in petitioning the Federal Aviation Administration to restrict air traffic over the city. He wants to limit flights over St. Charles, including the entire 10-mile radius around the DuPage Airport, to corporate and private aircraft.
Though sympathetic, city leaders aren't ready to take that step.
But Gunther may not be alone in his thinking. In March, the city of Chicago received nearly 353,000 noise complaints, according to a report by the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission. That's more complaints in one month than the city received in all of 2014.
The airport switched to a predominantly east-west flight pattern in fall 2013, ratcheting up noise levels for several suburbs. Stats kept by the noise commission indicate that reality didn't hit St. Charles residents until February.
That's when 82 St. Charles residents filed noise complaints. In any of the prior 10 months, there were never more than four complaints from St. Charles residents.
The most recent noise complaint report, in April, shows 249 noise complaints from St. Charles residents.
Gunther told aldermen most of the air traffic flies over St. Charles North High School, down Red Gate Bridge and down Army Trail Road. But that's just for now.
Two more runways and a runway extension are coming to O'Hare. A runway at the far south end of the airport is slated to open this October. The extension and a runway on the north airfield will come later.
There are three upcoming forums with Federal Aviation Administration officials between Aug. 10 and 13 to answer questions and take comments from the public. The FAA is re-evaluating the timing of the new runways and extension.
Despite all of that, aldermen told Gunther they don't think the timing is quite right for the city to take a position on air traffic over the city or the future of O'Hare runways. Aldermen said they want to study the issue more and wait to see if there is a larger pushback against noise.
But they said they know what Gunther is talking about.
Fifth Ward Alderman Maureen Lewis lives near the border with Geneva. She said a couple of weeks ago she and her husband, Kane County Board member Phil Lewis, timed jets flying overhead almost every minute.
"They were low enough that we could see, almost, what airline they were," she said. "Most nights it's just nonstop. I understand maybe there's no complaints to the city, but the people in my neighborhood are complaining to each other. I agree. It's only going to get worse."