Afternoon Edition: Aug. 4, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Meghen Leckey’s daughter, Vivienne, takes a nap on the family’s private jet. The Leckey family purchased the plane four weeks ago to avoid flying on commercial planes during the pandemic.


Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

It’s a beautiful afternoon: Sunny with a high near 73 degrees. Tonight’s low will be near 57 degrees. Tomorrow will be sunny, and a bit warmer, with a high near 77 degrees.

Top story

Private jet usage soaring for Chicago charter companies amid pandemic

With two young children, Meghan Leckey couldn’t fathom boarding a commercial airplane for her regular trips between homes in Chicago and South Florida during the coronavirus pandemic. Waiting in lines, wearing a mask and constantly wiping down surfaces so her family can stay safe just didn’t seem feasible for the 37-year-old restaurant owner.

So four weeks ago, Leckey and her family, who ordinarily would fly first class, bought a private jet: “The idea that everyone was sort of dreading it was really the motivation,” she said of flying on a commercial airplane. 

Leckey’s move to purchase a private jet, though still a luxury only accessible to the ultra-rich, is indicative of a larger trend starting to appear in the travel industry. Like Leckey, some people who once flew in business or first class are making the switch to chartering a private jet, and those who once chartered planes are taking the major step of purchasing their own plane to avoid crowded airports altogether as the coronavirus pandemic marches on.

Depending on the size of a plane, chartering a jet for a one-way trip from Chicago to Miami can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $44,000, while purchasing one can cost anywhere from $3 million to $90 million.

Mark Ahasic, president of Ahasic Aviation Advisors, said multiple factors are driving the sudden growth he’s seen in the industry. Not only can worried flyers avoid the discomfort in being sardined in a commercial airliner, flying in private planes lets them avoid airport terminals, lines and crowds, which have morphed from an annoyance to a potential health risk for many.

“The other thing that may be driving the increase in private jet use is that there’s really a reduced schedule in the U.S.” Ahasic said, which means it’s increasingly difficult to get a seat in a certain non-stop market. 

This shift bodes well for those in the business of chartering and managing private aircraft. Mike Mitera, who owns Chicago Jet Group, said the pandemic has been the busiest time in the company’s 18-year history: Mitera said he’s seen a 30-40% growth in business since March, pushing him to make an unprecedented investment in nearly doubling his aircraft inventory, from seven planes on management and charter to 11.

Vince Schideman, a managing partner at Triumph Jets, also based in Chicago, said pre-pandemic, his company was doing 10-20 trips per month. “Now, we’re easily 10 times that,” he said. 

“They don’t want to put their families at risk,” Schideman said of his clients. “If you can afford this way of travel, then it’s completely justifiable at this point.”

As for whether or not business will return to normal levels in a post-pandemic world? Schideman said for those who get accustomed to the private jet lifestyle, it’ll be hard to go back to commercial airplanes: “Most of the customers that end up doing this, they don’t want to fly any other way,” he said.

Read the full story, by me, here.

More news you need

  1. A 39-year-old man was ordered held without bail today for the fatal shooting of 9-year-old Janari Ricks, who was playing in a vacant lot near the site of the former Cabrini-Green housing project on Friday when he was killed. Darrell Johnson was arrested Sunday in Chatham, Chicago police said.
  2. Puerto Rico today joined 22 states on Chicago’s 14-day travel quarantine list amid concern about a surge in coronavirus cases among travelers, in households and at social gatherings. With COVID-19 in control in workplaces and long-term care facilities, officials said concerns have shifted to places where people “trust each other and let their guard down.”
  3. A Wisconsin man is the third person charged in a Fourth of July shooting that killed a 7-year-old girl on the West Side, Chicago police announced today. Terrell Boyd, 30, faces a first-degree murder charge in the murder of Natalia Wallace during a party in Austin, police said.
  4. Police are seeking the public’s help identifying a gunman who allegedly participated in shooting eight people on the Fourth of July in Englewood, killing a 14-year-old boy and three men. The FBI is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the identification and arrest of the shooters that killed Vernado Jones.
  5. With the coronavirus heightening challenges already faced by people with disabilities, activists are calling for an expansion of monthly Supplemental Security Income. People receiving the maximum SSI live on $783 a month; the Chicago Disability Activism Collective is proposing an additional $266 per month.
  6. Michael P. Smith, a star of Chicago’s folk scene and an award-winning composer who toured the United States and Canada for more than half a century, died yesterday of colon cancer. He was 78.
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A bright one

South Siders revel in Jeremiah Collier’s ‘uplifting’ porch session music jams

Jeremiah Collier and his band, the REUP, have been providing free entertainment to neighbors and anyone else who shows up in front of his parents’ Park Manor bungalow on Thursday afternoons. 

Dubbed “Porch Sessions with JC and the REUP,” 20-year-old Collier plays drums and is joined by a rotating set of musicians, poets and singers that sometimes includes cousins and siblings. “We play mostly jazz standards,” said Collier, who also jams out to original music and covers of Snoop Dogg, Erykah Badu and Slum Village. 


“Jeremiah Collier and the REUP” play a weekly live performance for neighbors in Park Manor.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Some South Siders install themselves in the front yard with lawn chairs, coolers and beverages, while others stay in their cars nodding their heads to the music. Some get pulled in while driving by, like Joseph Saunders, who posted a video to Facebook that went viral. His caption read, in part: “There’s more Beauty in Chicago than there is Ugly … believe me there is.”

“This is a relaxing way to take our minds off of things before we go back [to work],” said educator and local resident Kemba Kelly. “This is my first time out here, and it definitely won’t be my last. This is a positive, uplifting way to be outside of the house under COVID restrictions; this is a positive and safe place.”

Collier aims to host the porch sessions until the fall when temperatures drop — And, hopefully, release an album.

Watch a video of the band and read the full story here.

From the press box

Ross Detwiler, an afterthought for the White Sox pitching staff entering the season, has quickly emerged as a potential option for the club’s uneven starting rotation, Daryl Van Schouwen writes. The 34-year-old has pitched 7.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen so far this year.

And columnist Rick Telander asks: How about a Cubs-Sox World Series this fall? In a season of shifting schedules and who knows what else, it’s not such a crazy idea.

Your daily question ☕

Chicago Public School parents: Will you opt in or out of in-school learning this fall? Tell us why or why not.

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you to tell us about something you’ve gotten better at since March. Here’s what some of you said…

“Cooking. I’ve lost weight and saved money since I haven’t been eating out as much.” — Thomas Huntley

“Saving money. At this point in time I think everyone has taken a good hard look at their savings or financial plans.” — Greg Hausner

“My reading speed has increased.” — Jakara Lynne

“Gardening, control and patience.” — Jackie Veal

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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