North runways get green light for overnight rotation at O'Hare

  • Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson talks about a runway rotation at a meeting on jet noise at O'Hare International Airport.

      Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson talks about a runway rotation at a meeting on jet noise at O'Hare International Airport. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

Updated 1/28/2020 5:45 PM

Initial fears that certain runways on O'Hare International Airport's north airfield might be unsafe to use in an overnight rotation plan were lifted Tuesday.

Federal Aviation Administration officials assured O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission members that Runways 9-Center, 9-Right and 4-Left "will be available for use at all hours of the day without any need for special mitigation.


"The level of risk we have identified is a moderate risk level that is acceptable from the FAA's perspective. We're confident of our ability to handle traffic safely," FAA Regional Administrator Rebecca MacPherson said.

The FAA's review was prompted by the construction of Runway 9-Center, which will be completed this year, and night activity on the ground at O'Hare that had potential to interfere with flights on the north airfield. Using the north runways on the nighttime rotation will give more relief to towns like Bensenville and Wood Dale that are south of the airport.

Overnight is a busy time for aircraft and airfield maintenance at O'Hare with several major hangars located near 9-Center.

The decision allows members of the ONCC's Fly Quiet Committee to continue crafting an overnight runway rotation using a mix of parallel and diagonal runways across the entire airfield.

The aim is to evenly distribute jet noise across the region so residents in the crosshairs of jets can sleep soundly some of the time. The ONCC has experimented with previous rotations and is the midst of one currently.

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The version under way now will be a permanent one that includes the new runway and an extension of 9-Right.

Meanwhile, Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson urged ONCC members to work together for noise relief. Trying to reduce the din of jets has pitted communities against each other on ONCC.

"The key is everyone should feel some pain ... everyone should feel some relief," Johnson said. "We have to have balance around the entire airport."

Johnson also urged the Fly Quiet group to consider population clusters when divvying up runways in the rotation to maximize the benefit.

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