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Only 11% of overnight O’Hare flights are cargo planes

Residents hit with jet noise from new O’Hare Airport flight paths may think cargo planes are keeping them awake, but nearly 90 percent of overnight flights involve passenger planes, new data indicated Tuesday.

On average, only 11 percent of O’Hare arrivals and departures between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. involved cargo-only planes during the week of Dec. 13, new data by consultant Landrum & Brown indicated Tuesday.

“The public’s perception is that it’s all cargo at night,’’ said Catherine Dunlap, chair of the Technical Committee of the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.

“It’s surprising to me that the actual number of cargo planes is so low. It’s illuminating.”

Dunlap said she has been pushing the Chicago Aviation Department to release more information on cargo planes so the Noise Commission can be better armed to talk to cargo carriers about disruptive flights.

Al Rapp, a member of the Fair Allocation in Runways coalition, said that Tuesday’s data indicates that since O’Hare dramatically changed its flight paths in 2013, passenger as well as cargo planes are likely waking residents. However, the lack of detail provided about overnight passenger flights obscures the full scope of the problem, he said.

And, Rapp noted, city consultants have said that many passenger planes also carry cargo in their bellies.

“The reality is, cargo comes in all day and all night,’’ Rapp said. “The passenger flights could be waking people up just like the cargo flights.”

Rapp Tuesday warned the Technical Committee that cargo planes should jump substantially after O’Hare opens a new cargo complex in the northeast corner of the airfield.

The $192 million facility, due for completion in 2016, could increase O’Hare’s cargo volume by 50 percent, a Chicago Department of Aviation spokesman said Tuesday.

Mayor Emanuel has said he hopes the new cargo services will boost Chicago’s position as an international air freight hub. In 2014, O’Hare ranked No. 4 nationally in cargo tonnage, behind No. 1 Memphis, No. 2 Anchorage and No. 3 Louisville. However, that same year, O’Hare was tops in the nation in total operations.

Meanwhile, O’Hare triggered more than 3.7 million jet noise complaints last year — an all time record. Chicago beefs about sleep disturbances alone stretched as far east as Sheridan Road, a May 2015 Chicago Sun-Times report indicated.

During the single week in December studied by Landrum & Brown, the busiest overnight period for O’Hare cargo was Wednesday night into Thursday morning, from Dec. 16 to Dec. 17. It showed 36 cargo-only flights between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., data presented to the Technical Committee showed.

The busiest hour of the entire week for cargo-only planes was from 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. that Thursday, Dec. 17, when eight cargo-only planes took off or landed at O’Hare. That averages out to one cargo plane every 13 minutes.

The lightest overnight period for cargo-only planes was from Sunday night into Monday morning, which saw only 11 cargo flights.

Similar detail was not provided for overnight passenger planes. Instead, Landrum & Brown released a weekly average by the hour for passenger planes, a method that hid their peak volume and the day of that peak.

Noise Commission Chair Arlene Juracek wondered aloud if Landrum & Brown had picked the “busiest” time of the year for cargo, as the week it detailed occurred during the pre-Christmas shipping period.

Juracek said she would like to see a longer time period studied. But, Juracek said, another O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission committee charged with recommending overnight “Fly Quiet” flight changes — including the possibility of rotating runway use every week — to the full commission should not hold up their decision-making until it gets more data.

“We don’t want to get caught up in data paralysis,’’ Juracek said.

“You don’t want to slow the effort down. My message will be to move forward on the [Fly Quiet recommendations] while we continue to do analysis.”

Cargo operations by hour

Nighttime cargo carriers