Will O'Hare airport runway rotation changes bring noise relief?

  • A low-flying jet looms over homes near O'Hare International Airport on Hillside Drive in Bensenville.

    A low-flying jet looms over homes near O'Hare International Airport on Hillside Drive in Bensenville. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • A jet passes over Hillside Drive in Bensenville as it prepares to land at O'Hare International Airport.

    A jet passes over Hillside Drive in Bensenville as it prepares to land at O'Hare International Airport. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Residents along Hillside Drive in Bensenville post signs looking for a fair solution to jet noise.

    Residents along Hillside Drive in Bensenville post signs looking for a fair solution to jet noise. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • A low-flying jet looms over homes near O'Hare International Airport on Hillside Drive in Bensenville.

    A low-flying jet looms over homes near O'Hare International Airport on Hillside Drive in Bensenville. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/6/2016 4:31 PM

The Chicago region will take a leap of faith starting Wednesday as people living near O'Hare International Airport test out an overnight runway rotation promised to more evenly distribute the jet cacophony.

The pilot project comes after an uproar from residents affected by new flight patterns after the Chicago Department of Aviation shifted to an east/west system of takeoffs and landings in the fall of 2013 using parallel runways.

 

Chicago Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans called the test critical to immediately reducing noise exposure for neighborhoods where aircraft is loudest.

"This has the propensity for improving the lives of people surrounding the airport," Bensenville Mayor Frank Soto said. "The fact we're not utilizing the same runways all the time will be beneficial."

Itasca Mayor Jeffrey Pruyn was hopeful and pragmatic.

"It should have a positive impact," he said. "We're not going to get rid of all of the noise, but we should have a reduction."

After months of discussions at the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission, the rotation idea was approved in May, then reviewed by Chicago's aviation department and submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration June 20, which approved it Tuesday.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The trial begins Wednesday evening.

From 11 p.m. or earlier to about 5:30 a.m., different combinations of runways will be used each week for a six-month period. The rotation schedule lasts 12 weeks and includes both diagonal and parallel runways.

Supporters hope it will provide some relief to people who've complained they get no sleep, especially those in towns such as Wood Dale, Bensenville and Itasca or Chicago neighborhoods near O'Hare.

But there are concerns in communities like Des Plaines that received less noise after Chicago shifted to the parallel runway system, where some residents fear they'll hear a renewed racket overnight.

"Rather than speculate, I want to get actual information from residents. Then we'll try to a formulate a response based on that," said Des Plaines 6th Ward Alderman Malcolm Chester, an O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission member who opposed the rotation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Residents will be asked to give feedback on noise levels weekly, and that data will help decide if the trial should be in place until flight patterns change at O'Hare again in 2018.

At that point, diagonal runway 14-Right/32-Left will be retired and later in 2020 a new runway will be built on the north airfield.

Local mayors said lessons learned from the experiment could help reduce noise as the airport evolves.

The rotation plan is voluntary and some homeowners, including Carol Kenzel of Elk Grove Village, are skeptical about it.

"I don't know what to believe out of the pending rotation schedules," she said. "This seems like such a short-term plan, especially since they still intend to demolish the diagonals."

Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson said the rotation demonstrates a new partnership with the Chicago Aviation Department and "opens the door to more changes over time." Those could include different landing and departure procedures to diminish noise.

"We're finally able to coexist," Johnson said.

Bloomingdale resident Alex Marks, whose neighborhood resounds with the din of jets, is "watching and hoping this will give our area some relief. The unfortunate part is it does not help much during daytime hours, but at least it is a start," he said.

The Fair Allocation in Runways airport watchdog group said it welcomed the test and what can be learned. However, FAIR member Daniel Dwyer of Medinah said by putting Runway 14-Right/32-Left in the rotation, the city proves diagonal runways are safe. The Chicago Department of Aviation contends a parallel system is more efficient and safer.

Wood Dale Mayor Nunzio Pulice said estimates show noise in some neighborhoods decreasing from happening five out of six weeks to occurring three out of six weeks with the rotation. "It's better than nothing," he said. "Until we do it, we don't know."

The proposal is a complex one that figures in east and west flight paths, prevailing winds, weather and repairs on Runway 10-Left/28-Right this summer.

"It's a test of an interim solution that might be a tool to use through 2017 and 2018," O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission Chairwoman and Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek said. "I'm looking forward to getting it moving. ... It's been such a long road."

To learn more, go to http://www.airportprojects.net/flyquiettest/

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.