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O’Hare overnight runway rotation closer to takeoff

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Planes take off at O’Hare International Airport, the second busiest in the nation. The city and FAA are finalizing a legal agreement that will trigger a study of an overnight runway rotation.
Daily Herald File Photo

Chicago and Federal Aviation Administration leaders were expected to reach a milestone legal agreement that triggers a study of a much-desired overnight runway rotation, officials announced Friday.

It took years for members of the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission to find consensus on a plan intended to evenly spread nighttime jet noise around airport communities.

And it’s taken months, since the 12-week Fly Quiet rotation was approved in August 2022, for a memorandum of understanding between the city and FAA to materialize.

“We will be signing it today,” Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee said at an ONCC meeting. “I want to thank everyone for their patience.”

“It will lay out the plan to go forward,” Fly Quiet Committee Chair and Bensenville Village Manager Evan Summers said.

The memorandum of understanding will delineate key items including the hiring of consultants to study the rotation and who pays for them. Officials will also decide whether a deep-dive environmental impact report is warranted or a shorter environmental analysis will suffice.

The new Fly Quiet program can’t come soon enough for residents who are sleepless in the wake of O’Hare shifting to a parallel runway system.

But the overnight rotation is the first of its kind and it’s receiving careful federal scrutiny.

Lawmakers including U.S. Democratic Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg, Mike Quigley and Delia Ramirez of Chicago, and Jan Schakowsky of Evanston recently nudged the agency for a “timely response.”

Meanwhile, not every O’Hare community is on board.

The 12-week rotation proposal uses four of O’Hare’s longest parallel east/west runways and two diagonal ones.

Elk Grove Village opposed the rotation option submitted by the ONCC and sued the FAA in October 2023 to compel the agency to consider a “reasonable alternative” that dispersed noise more fairly, Mayor Craig Johnson said.

The lawsuit was withdrawn after the FAA said it had made no final decision and would consider the village’s comments.

On Tuesday, Johnson said the village had sent the FAA a new analysis showing the original rotation was flawed and asking its alternative be considered in any environmental study.

“The FAA will review and consider these comments, and any other comments, before it makes a final decision,” a spokesman said.

Planes approach O’Hare International Airport from the west in Bensenville. The city and FAA are finalizing a legal agreement that will trigger a study of an overnight runway rotation.
Daily Herald File Photo

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