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No. 2 city aviation official guides nation’s busiest airport

With Rosemarie Andolino’s departure as Chicago aviation commissioner, the world’s busiest airport was being overseen by the department’s No. 2 in command Monday.

Michael Boland, first deputy commissioner of aviation, will serve as “acting interim commissioner” until a task force announced in July by Mayor Rahm Emanuel selects a replacement for Andolino, a city spokesman said Monday.

The head of that task force, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, told the Chicago Sun-Times last month that Boland was “doing a great job” and the task force was not close to picking a replacement to oversee O’Hare International and Midway Airports.

“Right now I’m focusing all my attention on finding candidates,” LaHood said a few weeks ago.

“We haven’t interviewed anybody yet. We’re just talking to people about their interest and seeing if they want to be interviewed.”

City Hall spokesman Andres Orellana said Monday that the task force has had “preliminary discussions with potential candidates.”

“Under the direction and participation of the task force, the search process continues to move forward,” Orellana said in an emailed statement.

Amid rising beefs about new O’Hare jet noise, Andolino revealed in mid-June that she would be joining the private sector and leaving the Chicago Department of Aviation in October.

She stayed even longer, until Sunday, when she issued a “farewell message” summarizing her accomplishments during her five years as commissioner and, before that, six years as head of what she called the “historic megaproject” known as the O’Hare Modernization Program.

Andolino mentioned everything from converting “the world’s busiest airfield” into “a more efficient, parallel runway configuration;” to transforming O’Hare’s International Terminal into a “world-class experience;” to adding 40 major O’Hare routes; to “going green” — a move that brought, among other things, a “herd of rescued grazing animals” to act as natural lawn mowers on O’Hare grounds.

During her last appearance before the Chicago City Council, in late October, Andolino was brought to tears several times by the good wishes she received from aldermen.

But she also took some jabs about rising O’Hare jet noise after last fall’s launch of new O’Hare flight paths under the O’Hare Modernization Program that Andolino headed. Roughly 70 percent of all O’Hare arrivals now approach the airport from the east, flying over areas of the city never exposed to such low-flying jets.

Aldermen seeking relief got little immediate solace from Andolino.

“People are experiencing noise. I understand that,” Andolino told aldermen during late October’s city budget hearings. “However, there are limited things we can do to change that. I can’t just magically make something happen.”

Andolino left her $186,576-a-year job to join an engineering firm she has refused to identify but said she would be concentrating on “global aviation” projects.

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mike Sneed broke the news July 9 that Emanuel was appointing LaHood, a friend, to head the task force that would find Andolino’s replacement.

Since then, LaHood has been joined by retired City Treasurer Stephanie Neely; Glenn Tilton of J.P. Morgan Chase; Jorge Ramirez of the Chicago Federation of Labor; Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd), chairman of the City Council Aviation Committee; and Omar Duque of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a City Hall spokesman said Monday.

Emanuel announced in September that O’Hare had reclaimed the title of the “world’s busiest airport,” based on its number of flight operations between January and August.