Distributing overnight noise from O'Hare a tall order

  • The Fly Quiet Committee takes a crack at distributing jet noise Monday.

      The Fly Quiet Committee takes a crack at distributing jet noise Monday. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

Posted10/20/2015 5:30 AM

Officials tasked with crafting a rotation system to evenly distribute noisy overnight O'Hare flights left their first meeting with added reasons why finding consensus will be tough.

Chicago aviation consultants Monday explained that the number of runways to work into a rotation is limited and there's a spike of red-eye flights arriving between 5:30 and 7 a.m. to accommodate.


In addition, one Wood Dale alderman suggested leaving some communities out of the process won't solve the problem.

"We cannot be left silent on the subject," Wood Dale Alderman Art Woods said. Wood Dale does not have a representative on the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission's nine-member Fly Quiet Committee.

Committee Chairman Joseph Annunzio of Niles said the group had to persevere. "I want this to happen," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, we will succeed."

The city is transitioning to a parallel, east-west runway system and that shift in 2013 brought an unexpected din to communities in Chicago and the suburbs.

Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans this summer proposed revising the existing Fly Quiet program, which puts jets on a few, select runways that typically fly over nonresidential areas, by rotating runways for certain periods of time.

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Although O'Hare has eight runways, only six can be used overnight. Two parallel runways on the far north and south sides of the airfield are closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., planners explained.

That leaves three parallels and three diagonal runways to handle overnight flights.

Another variable is a concentration of red-eye flights arriving from the West and East coasts.

Aviation consultant Doug Goldberg noted that arrivals grew from 55 an hour between 6 and 7 a.m. in July 2014 to 63 during that time in July 2015. Once flights surpass 40 an hour, a second runway must be used.

Planners will also need to decide if a daily, weekly or monthly rotation works best.

"What we're looking for is relief," Bensenville Village President Frank Soto said. "This is, at least, a step in the right direction."


Both Bensenville and Wood Dale receive more than their fair share of noise levels, municipal officials said, because the final runway on the north airfield won't be built until 2021 or so, leaving the burden to the southern end.

Municipalities represented on the committee include: Bensenville, Chicago, Des Plaines, Harwood Heights, Niles, River Grove, Schaumburg and Schiller Park. The noise-watchdog group Fair Allocation in Runways belongs as a non-voting member.

ONCC Chairwoman and Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek said nine was a workable number with geographic representation for encircling the airport and allowing for debate, discussion and consensus.

"There was no intent to shun or keep anyone out the discussion. Also, the idea is that people aren't just representing their constituencies, they're driving to a consensus solution," Juracek said.

"When you talk about shifting noise impact ... it deserves great consideration," CDA Assistant Commissioner Aaron Frame said.

The committee meets next on Nov. 16.

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