Commission OK’s ‘Fly Quiet’ rotation plan


The O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission at its meeting on Dec. 8 approved an interim "Fly Quiet" nighttime runway rotation plan, which if approved by city and federal agencies, could take effect next year at O’Hare International Airport, according to officials.

The commission voted 51-8 and the recommendation now moves to the Chicago Department of Aviation, which will develop a formal submittal to the Federal Aviation Administration for environmental review, according to the commission. The FAA’s review process is anticipated to take up to 12 months and if approved, the plan would remain in place until new Runway 9 Center 27 Center is commissioned in 2020 as part of the O’Hare Modernization Program.

"Fly Quiet" is a voluntary nighttime noise abatement program at the airport that is in effect from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. The commission formed an ad hoc Fly Quiet Committee in 2015 whose purpose was to review, modify and make recommendations regarding nighttime noise procedures at the O’Hare.

The ad hoc committee has overseen a series of three runway rotation tests in order to find the best solution to balance nighttime noise impact. Test 1, which was in place from July to December in 2016, was intended to evaluate a condition that could be in place until diagonal Runway 14 Right 32 Left (later renamed Runway 15-33) is permanently closed. Test 2 ran from April to July of this year and its purpose was to test the capabilities of the different configurations after responding to FAA concerns from Test 1, as well as test new configurations that were not included in the original test. Test 3, in effect from July to October, was conducted to test a condition that could be in place from Runway 15-33 decommissioning until Runway 9 Center 27 Center commissioning, according to the commission.

The rotation plan approved by the commission is essentially the same runway rotation plan that was followed in the third runway rotation test. The plan features an 8-week rotation plan with six configurations arranged to alternate each week between parallel and diagonal runways, and rotating east flow and west flow.

Commission chairwoman Arlene Juracek supported the effort, stating that "Option A" best met the goals and guidelines to provide near-term relief, reduce impacts to the highest impacted communities and to provide predictability to the nearest extent possible.

"As I have expressed previously, ONCC best serves all members if we adopt a regional approach," Juracek said. "Considering the factors, I believe adopting an Interim Fly Quiet Plan Option A is the best course of action. I feel this option represents an equitable balance of relief to communities surrounding O’Hare."

"We sit on this body not only to represent our constituents, but to represent the region as a whole. We cannot allow things to devolve into tribal instincts. The communities to the east and west of the airport have been deluged by noise for decades. The reality is there is no perfect solution. All we are asking is that we approach the situation with a sense of fairness, and shared burden as well as benefit," Alderman John Arena (45th) said, who is a member of the commission and the ad hoc committee.

Also voting in favor of the plan was Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th), who last week was appointed to the commission on an interim basis because the ward’s regular representative is on medical leave.

"I thought this was going to be a real close vote," he said. "I did not want my ward to be unrepresented."

"The Interim Fly Quiet rotation is a critical part of the CDA’s mission to be a good neighbor and reduce noise exposure for the communities most heavily impacted as O’Hare’s airfield modernization continues," said CDA commissioner Ginger Evans. "Looking ahead, we will continue partnering with the ONCC and with the FAA to ensure the Interim Fly Quiet rotation provides even greater predictability and quieter conditions for our neighbors."

The FAA review will include a public participation process, during which ONCC as well as impacted communities will provide input. The FAA will accept written comments from the public and will host public workshops to share information and answer questions from residents. The FAA’s analysis will disclose the impacts of the proposed plan, impacts without the proposed plan and possibly an additional alternative. The FAA will also determine if it can approve the proposal.

CDA staff noted that the rotation plan would be affected by pavement rehabilitation that will take place on Runway 4 Left 22 Right in 2019, and similar work on Runway 4 Rright 22 Left planned for 2020.