New O'Hare overnight runway rotation begins Sunday
An overnight runway rotation test begins this weekend to more evenly distribute jet noise around O'Hare International Airport even as plans are percolating to conduct yet another trial when this one ends.
Members of the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission's Fly Quiet Committee didn't vote on the newest rotation plan, which would be the third in two years, but at a Tuesday meeting they appeared to favor it despite flaws.
The original overnight rotation experiment in 2016 was popular with residents desperate to get some shut-eye at night, and the Chicago Department of Aviation is launching a second, 12-week version Sunday through mid-July.
Reactions to rotation scenarios for a potential third trial were mixed. The latest proposal leaves out a diagonal, northwest runway (15/33) that will be decommissioned in 2018. The slack would be picked up in part by parallel, east-west Runways 10-Left and 10-Center that have flight paths over Bensenville and Wood Dale.
"Our residents are right underneath 10C," Bensenville Village Manager Evan Summers said. "It's a tough pill to swallow, but that said, anything is better than the status quo, which is 10-Left and 10-Center all night long, every night."
The third rotation would likely run from July to October.
The rotation is intended to evenly distribute the racket over communities. Leaving out 15/33 would spare towns like Schaumburg that got unexpected jet din in the first rotation, but will also mean more overnight flights being routed south, east and north of O'Hare.
Dan Dwyer, a member of the Fair Allocation in Runways group that is lobbying to preserve 15/33, said dropping that runway before it is decommissioned "defies logic." Runway 15/33 is part of the rotation that begins Sunday.
Another issue for the commission and neighborhoods beset by jet noise is the temporary nature of any fixes. When 15/33 is retired next spring, it will be torn up to make way for a sixth east/west runway (9-Center/27-Center) on the north airfield. That new runway won't be finished until 2020.
Continuing rotation trials is problematic because the Federal Aviation Administration must approve such experiments and they are for limited time periods, said Aaron Frame, Department of Aviation deputy commissioner for noise abatement.
"We don't want to be in a state of perpetual testing," Frame said.
The Fly Quiet Committee is expected to vote on the third rotation plan at its May 19 meeting and a final decision by the full board could follow.
Officials also decided to continue with a resident survey during the test period that begins Sunday. To learn more about rotation plans, go to oharenoise.org.