Prospect Heights delays vote on new Chicago Executive Airport layout

  • Prospect Heights City Council members Monday night postponed a vote on a new layout that would eliminate a runway at Chicago Executive Airport, which Prospect Heights and Wheeling co-own.

      Prospect Heights City Council members Monday night postponed a vote on a new layout that would eliminate a runway at Chicago Executive Airport, which Prospect Heights and Wheeling co-own. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/25/2020 8:35 AM

Prospect Heights City Council members Monday night agreed to postpone a vote on a new layout plan for Chicago Executive Airport that includes a controversial proposal to eliminate one of the facility's runways.

By a 5-0 tally, the council tabled the airport matter to a meeting March 9. The airport is co-owned by Wheeling and Prospect Heights.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Prospect Heights Alderman Matthew Dolick acknowledged that the idea to scrap the only east-west runway as part of the updated master plan is a complex issue that's generated passion on both sides. Several small-plane pilots are citing safety in wanting the runway to remain -- the same reason airport officials say it should be closed.

"Personally, I do not need the extra time, but I would be in support of tabling this simply because it is very important and I want everyone to feel comfortable in their decision and, if additional time is needed, I would support that," Dolick said.

"I'd hate to see it dragged on too long."

Last month, a divided Wheeling village board approved Chicago Executive's layout plan with the elimination of Runway 6/24, which the pilots say allows them to avoid dangerous crosswinds. On Jan. 27, the Prospect Heights council indefinitely postponed a vote on the plan, but it resurfaced on Monday night's agenda.

Chicago Executive infrastructure consultant Crawford, Murphy and Tilly Inc. of Aurora states in a report that the Federal Aviation Administration considers the area where Runway 6/24 meets the airport's other two runways to be a confusing "hot spot" that should be eliminated.

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Airport officials say the runway -- the facility's shortest at 3,677 feet -- accounts for just 2% of an average 211 daily takeoffs and landings.

But members of the Chicago Executive Pilots Association reiterated at public comment time at Monday's Prospect Heights meeting that Runway 6/24 should remain for safety reasons. There are at least 114 general-aviation pilots in the association.

Former Chicago Executive spokesman Rob Mark criticized officials for not trying to talk to the pilots about their concerns. Prospect Heights Mayor Nicholas Helmer eventually banged his gavel to halt Mark, a longtime pilot and association treasurer.

"Mr. Mark, stop making disparaging remarks," said Helmer, who allowed him to complete his allotted five minutes of public comment.

Chicago Executive Airport's total flight operations declined in 2019 compared to the previous year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said Chicago Executive had 74,204 arrivals and departures last year. In 2018, there were 78,831 flight operations, according to the FAA.

Corporate and charter jets and light-aircraft flights are handled at Chicago Executive as a reliever for O'Hare International Airport.

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