State Rep. Michael McAuliffe (R-Chicago) on Monday joined the growing call for the Federal Aviation Administration to hold a public hearing on the huge shift in O’Hare International Airport jet noise following the debut of new flight paths last fall.
McAuliffe asked residents to sign an online petition at www.michaelmcauliffe.org demanding that the FAA hold new hearings and conduct a new environmental impact study.
The petition also urges that “immediate relief” be provided to affected homes through expansion of the city’s sound insulation program.
Complaints to the O’Hare Noise hotline have skyrocketed to record levels since O’Hare began a massive shift in its flight paths last October. That shift has directed more jets over areas directly east and west of O’Hare.
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Three Democratic members of the U.S. Congress — Mike Quigley, Tammy Duckworth and Jan Schakowsky — wrote to the FAA on June 19, also asking for a new environmental study and new public hearings. Nearly a month later, they have yet to receive a response.
Their letter questioned the integrity of the FAA’s 2005 public hearing process after the Chicago Sun-Times reported that none of the FAA’s legally required hearings on the new flight paths were in areas due for heavy jet noise.
The Sun-Times also found that the FAA’s predictions of the percent of air traffic per runway were corrected months after the public comment period closed on its draft environmental impact statement. After the correction, additional online and written comments were allowed, but no new public hearings were held and the FAA has yet to explain the reason for the changes.
Nearly three-quarters of the figures in an FAA runway chart were ultimately corrected, the Sun-Times found. Some of those corrections more than doubled the number of arrivals due to fly over areas McAuliffe represents, including Chicago’s 41st Ward, Schiller Park, Norridge, Rosemont and Park Ridge.
McAuliffe said his constituents feel “duped” by FAA public hearings that were held “where nobody was going to be affected,’’ rather than in his district, which he called “ground zero” for new airport noise.
He said he was never invited to the 2005 hearings, although an FAA spokesman has said a long list of unspecified public officials were invited.
After the big switch last October, air traffic that mostly traveled in and out of O’Hare on a diagonal instead began arriving mostly from the east and departing mostly to the west. McAuliffe’s district is directly east of O’Hare and would see many more O’Hare arrivals under the new flight paths.
Asked for comment about McAuliffe’s petition and comments, FAA Chicago area spokesman Tony Molinaro said the FAA would respond to “inquiries” directly from McAuliffe.
Jac Charlier of the Fair Allocation in Runways coalition has said that the runway data the FAA initially released to the public was so riddled with errors that all FAA predictions about the $8 billion O’Hare Modernization Program should be checked by a neutral party. Even more runways are due to be added by 2020, although funding for some of that expansion is still uncertain.
On Saturday, FAIR organized the distribution of thousands of door hangers, complaining that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had ignored seven requests to meet with the group about “more and more planes,” with “lower approaches” flying “longer hours” over certain areas.