Lawsuit, fines are the vindication that they were right, Daley
The Friends of Meigs
Field wasted no time in responding to the FAA's announcement of a
lawsuit and fines against the City of Chicago for the destruction
of Meigs Field.
In a case of the wheels of government grinding slow but
exceedingly fine, the Federal Aviation Administration today
announced that it is taking legal action against the City of
Chicago for its closure of Meigs Field, proposing the maximum
fines allowed by law, and investigating possible misuse of federal
aviation funds totaling over $1.5 million.
The agency, in a press release, announced it is proposing
the maximum penalty allowed by law for the improper closure of
Meigs Field without notice during the night of March 30,
2003. The fine of $33,000 represents the maximum of $1,100
per day for thirty days. Federal regulations require 30-day
notice of the closure of airports like Meigs. After Meigs'
closure, Congress was so outraged, it passed a law, dubbed "The
Meigs Act" increasing the fine to $10,000 per day for future
incidents in the U.S.
"This proves we've been correct from the start," said Steve
Whitney, president of the Friends of Meigs Field. "The City
closed Meigs illegally and under false pretenses. They should
apologize and make amends."
While more details need
to be disclosed, the FAA's announcement seems to indicate the
agency did not find any "emergency" for closing Meigs Field.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley had cited unspecific fears of
"terrorism" for closing Meigs, but in reality has sought for years
to close the downtown reliever airport for a city park.
Perhaps more significant than the fines proposed by the FAA,
is the announcement that the agency has initiated an investigation
into the possible misuse of over $1.5 million in restricted federal
aviation funds for the demolition of Meigs Field. If the City
is found to have misused these funds and refuses to repay them, it
could be liable for triple damages, or nearly $5 million in
All of the fines proposed would come from city
"We are heartened by today's decision," said Whitney.
"While the findings will not force the re-opening of the airport by
themselves, they add credibility and force to our efforts. We
applaud the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for pursuing
this complaint so diligently."
The AOPA initiated the complaint with the FAA against the
City of Chicago immediately after the closure last year, and the
Friends of Meigs Field provided valuable information about the
specifics of the closure, the timeline, and the City's
The Friends of Meigs Field continue to work toward a compromise
plan to re-open Meigs Field as a combination park/airport/air
museum for the citizens of Chicago. Details of this "Parks
and Planes" proposal are available at the organization's