O'Hare overnight runway rotation could start later in 2018 despite protests

  • A jet shakes a neighborhood in Bensenville. The O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission approved an overnight runway rotation likely to start in 2018 and last until fall 2020.

    A jet shakes a neighborhood in Bensenville. The O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission approved an overnight runway rotation likely to start in 2018 and last until fall 2020. Daily Herald File Photo

Updated 12/9/2017 2:09 PM

O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission members divided on geographical lines and voted 51-8 to approve an overnight runway rotation Friday.

The rotation would be in effect until fall 2020, but first it's subject to a lengthy Federal Aviation Administration review and may not be instituted until later in 2018.


Commission members in towns such as Elmhurst and Des Plaines opposed the plan, saying they're getting an earful from jets using two diagonal runways.

But a majority -- including members from Chicago, Wood Dale and Bensenville beset by noise in neighborhoods east and west of O'Hare -- argued in favor of trying to distribute the racket evenly.

The eight-week rotation would alternate diagonal and parallel runways. But based on three previous tests, Chicago Department of Aviation planners expect flights will depart and land on parallel runways 74 percent of the time and on diagonals 26 percent. Variables include weather, winds and pilots opting for the longer parallel runways.

The rotation provides some relief, but Wood Dale is still "getting a significant amount" of flights, Mayor Nuncio Pulice said. "This is all about collaboration. My residents tell me, 'Put everything on the diagonals and to the north.' That's not fair."

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Living in the flight path of diagonal Runway 4-Right/22-Left means "our family's sleep is greatly affected by nighttime (air) traffic," Elmhurst resident Anne Marie Gustafson said. "Sleep deprivation has serious implications for growing young bodies and minds."

She added that the rotation disproportionately hurts low-income students at one local school. "Planes will be flying 1,300 feet over their homes and apartments ... bringing new challenges to our most vulnerable population."

"Every community has low-income students. ... It can't be looked at in the narrow view of 'what's in my community,'" Chicago 45th Ward Alderman John Arena said.

Des Plaines 6th Ward Alderman Malcolm Chester said he's worried about more flights causing environmental damage and added, "I would like to expand the sound insulation program -- most of my community is not covered."


Bensenville Village President Frank DeSimone hailed the vote as "a huge step forward and responsible solution."

Schaumburg Transportation Director Karen Robles said "trying to find a way to share the impact throughout the region is the right path forward. If we all take a piece of it, everyone will be better off in the end."

Members of the Fair Allocation in Runways Group, however, were doubtful. "This plan puts 88 percent of the large wide-body aircraft on the same east/west communities already heavily impacted, more than previously experienced. These operations will occur every night of every week regardless of which runways are in the rotation," FAIR member Dan Dwyer said.

The rotation schedule is somewhat fluid as closures on diagonal Runways 4-Left/22-Right and 4-Right/22-Left are expected in 2018 and 2019 for construction.

The FAA review will include public hearings and assessments of the impact on neighborhoods.

A sixth and final parallel runway will be completed in late 2020 that will change noise patterns in the city and suburbs.

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