Journal Online: Servicing Chicago’s Great Northwest Suburbs
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Journal & Topics Newspapers
Easy, quick fixes could start minimizing noise from reconfigured runways at O’Hare Airport immediately without impacting airport operations, aviation and public affairs experts hired by the Suburban O’Hare Commission (SOC) say.
On the job only a month, consultant Joseph Del Balzo, president of Maryland-based JDA Aviation Technology Solutions, and representatives of Lockridge Grindal Nauen (LGN) Aviation Policy Group brought some early suggestions to SOC’s Wednesday, Apr. 1 meeting, which aim to lessen airport noise and better track specific aircraft that might be violating fly quiet areas or other rules.
Suggestions included starting takeoffs at the very start of runways, climbing steeper from a 3-degree ascent to a 3.5-degree ascent and landing with a steeper descent further down the runway. Other suggestions included having the airport offer aircraft tracking software on a public website.
Small changes in takeoff and landing procedures would carry aircraft higher in the skies earlier, minimizing noise on the ground, Del Balzo said during his appearance last week before SOC at Elk Grove Village Hall. He said the difference in noise from an aircraft flying in at 3,200 feet off the ground to 3,450 off the ground is quite significant.
Another program JDA representatives said they believe is already in place at O’Hare — and only needs to be turned on and made public — is a system called Webtrak. Webtrak is used at 20 U.S. airports including JFK and Laguardia in New York that tracks aircraft with about a 20-minute delay on a public website. The system shows decibel readings at noise monitors as aircraft fly over. Aircraft on the display can be clicked on to see their airline, flight number and destination.
Webtrak is a small module in a larger tracking system JDA officials said O’Hare already has in place. They said if the Webtrak system were publicly available on a website as it is in other cities, complaints of low flying aircraft or of those violating fly quiet rules would be directed to the airlines, putting pressure on them not to violate rules.
Del Balzo said his firm would conduct a comprehensive review of O’Hare Airport operations, a review of the existing noise contour and the accuracy of noise modeling.
A noise study would seek to “clarify the technical underpinnings of regulations of adverse aircraft noise impacts in the U.S.”, “explain inconsistencies and deficiencies in current regulatory approach” and “suggest avenues for improving relevance of noise regulatory policy,” the presentation continued.
One issue with determining what areas are actually impactedby noise and to what extent, is that the O’Hare Modernization Plan is not complete and might not be for 20 years. While it remains unfinished, Chicago aviation officials will not update the contour map because it continues to change.
Elk Grove Village mayor and SOC Chairman Craig Johnson and the consultants warned about calls for a new environmental impact study, saying those typically take seven to 10 years to complete, during which time Chicago officials could stall making any substantive changes.
In the last 30 days, LGN officials were in Washington with Bensenville Mayor Frank Soto as he attended a meeting of the U.S. League of Cities. At that meeting, Soto was named an officer of that group and appointed to its noise committee.
In Washington, LGN and Soto met with members of the Illinois congressional delegation and hosted a briefing for the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus concerned with airport noise.
They also met with U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-5th), whose district includes Rosemont in the Journal & Topics coverage area. After meeting with LGN, Quigley heard testimony in a House hearing from senior FAA administrators and posed questions to them based off his meeting with LGN, consultants said at theElk Grove meeting.
At the meeting, State Rep. Christine Winger (R-45th) said and other legislators are looking for good objective sources of information. State Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-28th), asked that, besides conducting a noise study, an air quality study be conducted as well. An air quality monitor was installed outside Maine South High School in Park Ridge several years ago, but Kotowski said he has yet to receive its data from Chicago.
Johnson said he knows the feeling, having waited for 18 years to receive real time data from noise monitors promised by Chicago officials.
Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek who was recently named chair of the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission (ONCC) said she hoped to work with SOC as they gather more data.
In the past, Johnson has been critical of ONCC saying it had no teeth to demand substantive change in airport operations or to penalize air carriers that violate fly quiet program rules.
JDA’s staff includes former high ranking FAA executives, aviation, noise mitigation and urban planning experts with expertise in air traffic control, acoustical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, planning, integration and airport operations.
LGN officials have strong ties to legislators and executive branch officials in Washington, D.C., including a former U.S. senator on staff. They have experience working in airport noise abatement programs.
One new tool that will soon come online is a website that Dennis McGrann of LGN said would take questions from the public and share updates as they become available.
Johnson celebrated the attendance at last week’s meeting by Chicago-based group Fair Allocation in Runways (FAiR), saying when SOC fought O’Hare expansion, Chicago residents were told increased noise from the airport would only be a suburban issue.
LGN also said they would speak with representatives of FAiR to facilitate gathering information from their membership in the city and suburbs.
In his presentation, Del Balzo said his firm would bring, “Recommendations from top experts in the field backed up by technical and scientific data that can make a difference reducing the noise impact you are currently experiencing.”
Johnson said the idea is to work with Chicago and its department of aviation, the FAA, congressional representatives, state legislators and other state officials to come up with reasonable, workable solutions to minimize noise while not disrupting airport operations. “We lost the expansion war, now we want to be good neighbors,” Johnson said. It was stressed that the goal is to minimize noise, not to eliminate it.
Part of the lobbying effort headed by LGN would be to closely monitor federal legislation and administrative developments within the executive branch to find solutions the FAA might implement, not only at O’Hare, but airports throughout the country.
SOC includes representatives of 11 governmental entities including Elk Grove Village, Elk Grove Township, Schiller Park and DuPage County with a constituency of about one million people.
The meeting was attended by a number of mayors and DuPage County representatives not already SOC board members. State Rep. Marty Moylan (D-55th) also sent his legislative aide.
Original Article: New SOC Consultants Offer Quick-Fix Ideas For Lessening O’Hare Noise