What's best way to tackle O'Hare nighttime jet noise?

  • The city of Chicago plans to try out a nighttime flight rotation to distribute jet noise.

      The city of Chicago plans to try out a nighttime flight rotation to distribute jet noise. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, August 2015

Updated 3/8/2016 5:23 PM

Would you like your jet noise daily or weekly? The O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission is poised to vote on testing a weekly rotation for nighttime flights Friday but some of its members will push for a daily cycle to be tried out as well.

Shifting night flights to a designated runway or runways every week will bring immediate relief to residents suffering from sleep deprivation by more evenly distributing noise, Chicago Department of Aviation officials think. If approved, the plan would be submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval and could begin in May.


But aviation consultants hired by the Suburban O'Hare Commission are contending that issues such as low visibility or construction could unexpectedly take out a runway for days and negate the benefits of a weekly rotation. A daily rotation offers more flexibility and is more workable, the Elk Grove Village and Bensenville mayors said Tuesday.

"All we want is a fair chance for the FAA to analyze and look at all options and, at the end of day, let the public decide," Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson.

For residents, it may be easier to endure one loud night once in a while than a full week of disruption, Bensenville Mayor Frank Soto said.

City experts counter that a weekly rotation offers more predictability.

The test period is for six months, which is a limited time to examine a weekly rotation, collect noise data and get feedback from the public, Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans said. But it's possible a daily schedule could be added to the mix in the fall, if results show the weekly system was thoroughly vetted, she said.

Meanwhile, Evans will defend her department's authority at a city aviation committee hearing Thursday. A proposed amendment backed by the Fair Allocation of Runways group seeks to restrict the commissioner's power to manage the O'Hare International Airport modernization program and give that capability to the City Council. It also aims to reopen a closed diagonal runway.

The ONCC opposes the ordinance, characterizing it as "the city council running the airport on a micro-level," ONCC Chairwoman and Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek said.

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