Inside the Fence

March 8, 2004

Listen closely; that sucking sound you hear is the mayor of Chicago bleeding the aviation system dry ...

Some ten months after Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley tore up the runway at Meigs Field - much like a thief in the night - FAA has announced that it is initiating an "informal investigation" into whether or not the mayor violated federal law by not providing prior public notice before he directed city crews to carve large 'Xs' into the pavement, rendering the airport useless.

It would seem that the only reason FAA is still considering the matter is that the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association won't let it die. The trade group has continued to press, and FAA is finally responding.

When an elected official is allowed to carte blanche destroy a component of the nation's air transportation system, we should all be concerned.
But there's more.

Mayor Daley is now spearheading (ramrodding?) his O'Hare Modern-ization Plan that calls for reconfiguring the airport's runways while also allowing for better access to the airport by suburban communities. Plans also call for an additional terminal building, once airline economics make it a prudent move.

Since its original announcement, the modernization plan has been touted by the mayor's office as costing a mere $6.6 billion. Critics of the plan have consistently charged that the final bill would actually approach some $15-20 billion. In February, the mayor's office came out with some new estimates (a result of prodding by FAA): The modernization plan will actually cost some $14.8 billion.

Critics of the O'Hare plan, which include the controllers who will monitor the airport's operations, charge that not only will Daley's plan not achieve the aggressive capacity increases promised, it will create a nightmare of congestion during construction.

For airports that have O'Hare as their primary connection to the air transportation system, there is concern. For airports that want to tap AIP funds for their facilities, there should be concern. It is truly a national issue that bears watching.

* * *

Finally, at the ACC/AAAE Airport Planning, Design & Construction Symposium in Denver, Continental Airlines CEO Gordon Bethune offered a few observations ...

  • Regarding the air carriers: "We'll either consolidate by design or default."
  • On the TSA and security: "I think what we need is a national standard for process."

Thanks for reading.