Latest O'Hare runway rotation will start Sunday

  • A new overnight runway rotation will begin Sunday at O'Hare International Airport.

    A new overnight runway rotation will begin Sunday at O'Hare International Airport. Daily Herald File Photo

Updated 11/1/2019 9:46 PM

Residents within earshot of O'Hare International Airport can expect a different sound overnight starting Sunday, when a new runway rotation begins.

The rotation -- subject of intense debate among towns, Federal Aviation Administration scrutiny and logistical gymnastics by aviation planners -- is only temporary, however.


Dubbed the Interim Fly Quiet Plan, different runways will be used at night each week over the course of eight weeks, and then the cycle will repeat from November through February 2021 with one interruption for construction.

Parallel and diagonal runways will be alternated with the hope of evenly distributing noise and improving the chances of a good sleep for communities besieged by the din of jets.

That means Bensenville homeowners who are in the crosshairs of flights using parallel runways on the south airfield "will begin to receive regular, predictable and much-needed nighttime relief under the Interim Fly Quiet plan," Village Manager Evan Summers said.

"We need to remember, however, that this relief is just temporary and that a permanent runway rotation plan is needed to preserve the quality of life for our residents."

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But over in Elmhurst, some neighborhoods are concerned the rotation will mean less shut-eye when Runway 4-Right/22-Left is handling more airplanes.

"Elmhurst is not happy with being in the rotation every other week," Alderman Bob Dunn said. "We realize this will impact us for about 14 months. Looking forward, we are happy to be part of a solid working group to develop a fair Fly Quiet 2021 (rotation) plan."

The rotation plan was crafted by the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission and the Chicago Department of Aviation and approved December 2017, but it required FAA approval.

• The first half of the interim rotation will run from Sunday through May 17, 2020, then halt for pavement reconstruction on Runway 4-Right/22-Left.

• From May 17 to Sept. 13, 2020, night flights will revert to the original Fly Quiet plan, a voluntary program that limits the runways used by pilots from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.


• The Interim Fly Quiet Plan will resume Sept. 13, 2020, and last through February 2021. At that point, construction of an extension to Runway 9-Right/27-Left will necessitate a return to the original Fly Quiet program.

O'Hare's switch to an east/west flight pattern in 2013 caused unexpected noise in neighborhoods across the suburbs and the city. To at least give residents relief at night, the noise commission tried several test rotations in 2016 and 2017.

The noise commission is developing a more permanent rotation to operate after O'Hare's sixth and final east-west runway is built in November 2020 and the Runway 9-Right/27-Left extension is finished in 2021. Both are on the north airfield.

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