Will overnight O'Hare runway rotation test expire or continue into 2017?

  • O'Hare noise complaints dipped slightly this summer.

    O'Hare noise complaints dipped slightly this summer. Daily Herald File Photo

Updated 11/16/2016 12:10 PM

If the city of Chicago requests an extension of its overnight runway rotation test at O'Hare International Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration will consider it, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The region is in the fifth month of the six-month trial, which ends Dec. 25, and so far has received positive reviews from communities inundated with noise such as Bensenville.


The experiment was intended to give residents some shut-eye by distributing flights around the region in the wee hours, but neighborhoods hit with an unexpected din aren't fans.

Complaints about noise, however, dipped slightly this summer, decreasing from 237,646 in the second quarter of 2016 to 230,634 in the third quarter, city planners said at an O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission Technical Committee meeting Tuesday. The overnight rotation started the week of July 6.

The Chicago Department of Aviation is in discussions with the FAA about the rotation test and future scenarios.

"We know what existed before was really bad; this is certainly better," Bensenville Mayor and noise commission member Frank Soto said.

"Some of us think it's a great thing but we need to go back and get consensus for it to continue, we can't just flip a switch," committee Chairwoman Catherine Dunlap said.

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The entire commission isn't scheduled to meet until 2017, but it might hold a special session to vote on the rotation extension.

The test involves using different combinations of runways each week from 11 p.m. or earlier to about 5:30 a.m. The rotation schedule lasts 12 weeks and includes both diagonal and parallel runways.

Sharing the pain, however, has caused sleepless nights for some neighborhoods including ones in Des Plaines, 6th Ward Alderman Malcolm Chester said.

"Everyone acclimates (to jet noise) during the day. At night in bed, it's very hard to cope," said Chester, adding that soundproofing aid should be expanded to people affected by the overnight rotation.

The test program doesn't reflect final flight patterns at O'Hare, which will change again in 2018. At that point, a diagonal runway on the far west side of the airport will be retired and in 2020 a sixth parallel runway will be completed on the north airfield.

The rotation was instituted after an outcry over jet disruptions that started in 2013 when O'Hare shifted to using east/west parallel runways.

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