Shouting match erupts during discussion of O'Hare runway rotation
An O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission meeting was anything but compatible Monday as a shouting match broke out during discussions of a runway rotation trial meant to more evenly distribute nighttime noise.
Before the brouhaha erupted, Chicago officials released details from the first five weeks of the rotation test, explaining that factors like storms, pilot requests and runway inspections affected whether the city stuck with scheduled runways overnight.
Although the rotation was expected to run between 11 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. or so, the average start time has been 12:16 a.m., the city told the noise commission's ad hoc Fly Quiet committee.
The meeting atmosphere grew testy as members of the Fair Allocation in Runways group argued that the rotation was flawed because one diagonal runway being used will be decommissioned in 2018.
"You're evaluating data that is becoming obsolete," FAIR member Al Rapp of Park Ridge said.
The rhetoric became so heated that Chairman Joseph Annunzio of Niles adjourned the meeting abruptly, citing "rudeness."
"This isn't Congress, this isn't the state of Illinois," Annunzio said. "We're a bunch of communities trying to do our best for their neighborhoods."
The rotation began July 6 following an uproar from residents affected by noisy, new flight patterns after O'Hare shifted to a parallel, east/west system of takeoffs and landings in 2013.
Different combinations of one arrival and one departure runways are used each week in a 12-week rotation designed to relieve nighttime noise for many residents by focusing takeoffs and landings in a specific area. The test is scheduled to last six months.
Flights used designated runways an average of four hours and 18 minutes during the rotation time slot, city data over the first five weeks indicated. A high of 6½ hours occurred one day, and a low of one hour, 15 minutes was recorded.
On 41 occasions in the five weeks, pilots asked for and were granted a different runway than the one slotted, typically because they needed more length to land or depart.
The city has completed its parallel runways on the south airfield and is building a final one on the north section. In the meantime, communities to the west and south are being hit with noise.
Reaction to the rotation has been mostly positive with comments such as "This is the first night in years I've been able to sleep," Bensenville Mayor and noise commission member Frank Soto reported.
But FAIR members think keeping all the diagonal runways open is the best option to evenly distribute jet noise. The group also called the online rotation survey for the public inadequate.
"This is nothing but personal agendas ... and you refuse, you refuse, to let the public participate," FAIR member Donald Walsh shouted. "You guys should be ashamed of yourselves."
Noise commission Chairwoman and Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek said the commission had "bent over backwards" to include FAIR but some of its members "are basically abusing that to the point of shutting down useful conversation."