Stealth Attack Sunday Night Strands 16 Airplanes
Chicago's rabidly anti-GA Mayor, Richard M Daley
held a brief news conference Monday afternoon, to explain why he
apparently sent heavy equipment to Meigs Field late Sunday night.
The Chicago Tribune's Casey Bukro said in its morning
edition, "Meigs Field, the city's lakefront airport, was closed
early today after construction vehicles showed up overnight and dug
up large portions of the runway. At dawn, the view from the top of
the Adler Planetarium showed a series of large, X-shaped portions
of concrete carved out of the runway's center. Large, illuminated
'X' signs marked either end of the runway. Sixteen aircraft
appeared stranded, parked along a taxiway and unable to take
Chicago's famous Police blocked the entrance to the airport.
The mayor has tried all sorts of legal and quasi-legal means to
kill the gem of the lakefront, for several years now. Apparently
the frustration of doing things within the system was too much for
him to bear. Monday morning, the city awoke to find the runway
We called Meigs, and asked, "What happpened to
your airport?" We were connected, without comment, to the City's
Aviation Department's spokeswoman, Monique Bond, who told us to
wait for the Mayor's press conference, that "all responses will be
coming out of the Mayor's office."
We called the Mayor's office -- 312-744-3334 --
We asked what had happened to the airport, and how the Mayor
justified it. The lady at the office's press number didn't know
when the conference was scheduled, but snipped, "The Mayor is
going to have an availability later on today, OK?" I answered,
"That's not OK," and hung up.
FAA spokesman Paul Turk explained that
it's pretty much the city's deal: "Meigs is what we call an
'unobligated airport.' It gets no federal grant money, no federal
Just what happened is still a mystery to the FAA. "We're trying
to sort this out with Homeland Security and some other folks. We
continue to look into this; but, as of now, it appears we were not
given any advance warning," he said.
Turk speculated (and we wrote it down): "There is a contract
control tower on the field -- that's a potential issue for their
ANN has also learned that there was no NOTAM issued prior to the
destruction of the airport -- the Mayor could have killed somebody.
The NOTAM below was issued after destruction of the
runways had commenced.
KCGX MERRILL C MEIGS
03/006 - AP CLSD 31 MAR 12:00 UNTIL UFN
NATCA Weighs In
Air traffic controllers blasted Chicago Mayor
Richard Daley’s unannounced forced closure of downtown
lakefront Meigs Field under cloak of darkness Sunday night,
assailing the stealth maneuver as a major step backwards for
Chicago aviation and warning of a domino effect on traffic at
"Mayor Daley bulldozed his way into aviation history this
morning by destroying a national treasure and potentially causing
unsafe flying conditions for the greater Chicagoland airspace,"
NATCA President John Carr said. "This reminds me of the Colts
sneaking out of Baltimore by dead of night. Clearly, the mayor
didn’t think his policy choices could either figuratively or
literally withstand the light of day. It’s the epitome of
Chicago media are reporting today that before midnight on
Sunday, workers with construction equipment arrived at Meigs
escorted by Chicago police and carved out large, X-shaped portions
of concrete out of the center of the runway. Sixteen aircraft
appeared stranded. Sources said under terms of a deal with
then-Illinois Governor George Ryan in December 2001, Mayor Daley
agreed to keep Meigs open until 2026.
"Mayor Daley has managed to do what terrorists
couldn’t -- he permanently shut down an airport in
the great city of Chicago," Carr said. "It’s just
The monthly average air traffic volume at Meigs in 2002 was
1,564 instrument flight rules operations, meaning flights where
pilots were in contact with air traffic control. But Meigs
routinely became a much busier airport during events at the nearby
McCormick Place convention center. In fact, last September, the
airport handled 2,273 IFR operations.
"The problem with Meigs closing is those 1,500 operations are
going to have to go somewhere else,” remarked Ray Gibbons,
president of the local NATCA chapter at Chicago Terminal Radar
Approach Control. “O’Hare and Midway airports are
already operating above capacity. In fact, we are working more
aircraft than we were before Sept. 11, 2001. Meigs’ closure
adds complex and higher volumes of traffic to this area’s
overburdened, understaffed facilities and sooner or later that
understaffing will reach critical mass. At some point in time, the
safety of the flying public will be compromised."
The FAA Statement:
We at the FAA were concerned to learn this morning of the
decision to close Meigs Field. Already, we have heard from members
of the general aviation community and we share their concern.
Removing any centrally located airport such as Meigs from the
system only diminishes capacity and puts added pressure on O'Hare
and Midway airports.
The Mayor was reported to have said in his afternoon news
conference that the airplanes left stranded at Meigs could leave on
the "adjacent, parallel runway," provided the FAA gave permission.
That "runway," Mr. Mayor (you nincompoop, sir), is a taxiway. A
deliberately misleading statement like that was, no doubt,
engineered to dupe the non-aviation press (and thus the public)
into thinking that the destruction of the runway was no big
What's going on? A TSA rep called
us back Monday afternoon, and said, "We have no idea." The TSA
referred us to the Department of Homeland Security, whose
spokesman, Brian Roehrkasse, told us that the decision to wreck the
airfield was apparently made in Chicago: "That decision
did not originate with the Department of Homeland Security, or with
the TSA," he said.