O'Hare runway plan would distribute jet noise around region

  • A runway rotation test is expected to go live this summer to give residents near O'Hare International Airport relief from jet noise.

    A runway rotation test is expected to go live this summer to give residents near O'Hare International Airport relief from jet noise. Daily Herald File Photo

Updated 6/15/2016 6:09 PM

Chicago's Aviation Department is closing in on a final version of a runway rotation test at O'Hare International Airport that many people living nearby hope will provide more shut-eye.

The six-month, weekly runway rotation pilot project includes parallel and diagonal runways and east and west approaches with the expectation of distributing jet noise across the region from 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.


The goal is for noise generated by takeoffs and landings to be concentrated over a different area each week, with airport neighbors in other areas getting some relief.

Once city officials sign off, the proposal goes to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval.

Incorporating details such as repairs to Runway 10-Left/28-Right on the south airfield and construction of a new runway on the south airfield have added to the complexity of the plan, approved May 6 by the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.

Vetting the plan shouldn't take too long, FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said. "We still expect it to start this summer," he said of the rotation trial.

The unusual move comes after O'Hare shifted to primarily east-west flight paths using parallel runways in fall 2013, provoking an uproar from neighborhoods hit by an unexpected din.

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Tuesday, commission members tweaked a survey residents experiencing aircraft noise can fill out during the weekly rotation. A consensus agreed it's essential for participants to give their addresses so analysts can determine if the rotation is providing relief.

"It's so important to have the data by address so we can really know what's going on," Technical Committee Chair Catherine Dunlap said.

The city operates a noise database that allows people to register complaints anonymously.

If the test rotation is deemed a success and the city wants to make it official, the FAA may need to re-evaluate its Fly Quiet program, Molinaro said, referring to the overnight program to reduce disturbances from airplanes.

The plan isn't a final fix as a new runway opening in 2020, and the decommissioning of a diagonal runway in 2019 will change flight patterns again.

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