Police State

Sunday March 30, Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago sent a task force to Meigs field — the lovely airport on the lake — and had the runway destroyed. The facility handled some 1,500 instrument flights per month and provided some relief to air traffic controllers handling the already overwhelmed O’Hare airspace. Daley, who recently won a Temporary Flight Restriction for the airspace over his city used the cover of darkness late Sunday night … after the airports usual closing time … brought in police escorted crews and had them rip giant X’s into the main runway at Meigs for the sake of security. There will be no more business flights into Meigs, there will be no more medical emergency flight services out of Meigs. There was no prior warning — no NOTAMs were issued in advance, because the FAA was not notified. The NOTAM was issued Monday when the light of day exposed what Daley had done.

Late in 2001, Daley had agreed with the Governor of Illinois to keep Meigs field open until 2026, although he retained the ability to have the airport closed by a vote of the General Assembly any time after 2006. The NOTAM issued Monday declared the airport closed indefinitely. Some sixteen aircraft were parked on the ramp and the FAA Tuesday sent representatives to ascertain if the taxiways could be used for departure. Those aircraft not taking to the air will be trucked out at the city’s expense. AOPA’s initial response, drawing on experience with similar incidents indicates that the mayor’s move is not illegal … though the FAA may yet fine the city.

An elected official chose to destroy an airport in the middle of the night, without warning that facility’s patrons or businesses. One of the most beautiful and beloved airports in the nation is gone.

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley may be reached at mayordaley@cityofchicago.org Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich may be reached at governor@state.il.us.

Land of the free. Home of the brave.