Jet noise proposal: Less at night but more at dawn?

  • There's no slowdown in O'Hare International Airport traffic, and that makes solving night jet noise tough.

    There's no slowdown in O'Hare International Airport traffic, and that makes solving night jet noise tough. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, August 2015

Updated 1/26/2016 10:02 AM

More options to rotate O'Hare flights overnight were welcomed by suburban and Chicago leaders Monday but a new plan for aircraft landing at dawn raised fears of more jet noise at that time of day.

Members of the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission's Fly Quiet committee tasked with recommending ways to reduce overnight jet noise supported five new routes for airplanes departing the airport roughly between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. These include directing pilots leaving from two runways on the south airfield (28-Right/10-Left and 28-Center/10-Center) to turn northwest or southeast shortly after takeoff with the goal of flying over more industrial areas or forest preserves to divert noise away from homes. Another idea is for airplanes to angle northeast in Rosemont after departing from Runway 9-Right on the north airfield.


Those ideas are on top of eight conventional departure routes planners want to calibrate to reduce noise.

"It gives more options for rotations and that's a plus," Bensenville Mayor Frank Soto said.

While reaching a consensus on the rotation options, committee members struggled with a separate plan for dawn flights.

Although the city's voluntary Fly Quiet program was intended to keep jets arriving on one runway, the volume of red-eyes coming into O'Hare weekday mornings negated that plan.

"The market has changed quite a bit," assistant aviation Commissioner Aaron Frame said, adding the city was drafting a plan that meets "realistic expectations."

Once arrivals or departures surpass 40 an hour, another runway is needed, officials said. A draft plan designating two arrival runways between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. or so, including one over a noise-besieged neighborhood in Bensenville, raised some hackles.

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"People are inundated in those hours," Soto said.

Chicago resident Frank Gagliardi warned if the city just reacted to airline demand, Fly Quiet would shrink. "There has to be a way to control demand," he said.

The committee's recommendations go to the noise compatibility commission board in March and if approved would be reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

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