Boyer (Rightly) Puts Meigs Closure Center Stage
A Wednesday hearing was supposed to be about the
FAA Reauthorization Bill, but AOPA President Phil Boyer (who has an
uncanny sense of priority, donchathink?) used the forum to urge
members of Congress to step in and deal with the destruction of
Chicago's Merrill C. Meigs Field. He told the members of the House
aviation subcommittee that AOPA would use every legislative and
legal means available to reopen the airport.
In an audiovisual presentation, Boyer used video clips to
emphasize the value of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's word,
showing the mayor shaking hands with then-Illinois Governor George
Ryan on a deal to save Meigs and of Daley saying just nine days
before the closure that claims of homeland security issues would
not be used to shut the airport down.
Boyer said the closure has stirred up AOPA's membership like
nothing in recent memory. "We have received a higher volume of
e-mails and phone calls about Meigs than about the closure of the
entire National Airspace System in the wake of the September 11
terrorist attacks," he told them.
Rep. William Lipinski (right--D-Ill.), who
sponsored legislation to save Meigs as part of a larger Chicago
airports bill, defended Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's actions,
saying that the mayor had every legal right to close the airport in
the manner he saw fit. Reading from a prepared statement, Lipinski
outlined the reasons for Daley's decision and said that he supports
Boyer expressed chagrin at the sudden, peremptory end to a
decade-long battle that was hard-fought on both sides. "The
middle-of-the-night destruction exacerbated the situation," Boyer
While Meigs took up a sizeable portion of the hearing, Boyer and
three other GA industry leaders, James Coyne of the National Air
Transportation Association, Ed Bolen of the General Aviation
Manufacturers Association, and John Olcott of the National Business
Aviation Association, told the members about the vital role general
aviation plays in the national aviation system and the national
economy, and about the difficulties GA faces from continual
For their part, the committee members showed a great deal of
knowledge and sensitivity to general aviation. Rep. Thomas Petri
(R-Wisc.) called GA "absolutely vital" even for "commercial
aviation" because it underpins the whole system.
Members also showed an appreciation of the
misunderstandings about what general aviation is and what it does.
"We need to do a better job helping the general public know how
important general aviation is to our economy," said John Duncan
(R-Tenn.). Rep. Bill Shuster went one step further. "Members of
Congress don't understand the importance of general aviation to the
nation and to their districts," he said.
"I was very impressed with the knowledge of the subcommittee
members," said Boyer.