Group OK’s new ‘Fly Quiet’ program at O’Hare airport
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
The O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission approved a new 12-week “Fly Quiet” nighttime runway rotation program on Aug. 17 that still needs to be approved by the city and the FAA before residents can get some more permanent jet noise relief.
The new plan, which was proposed by the group’s Fly Quiet Committee, will feature six runway configurations that will alternate weekly from the north airfield to the south airfield and air traffic flow from east to west to balance nighttime noise and avoid consecutive impact to communities near the airport, a press release said.
FOR EXAMPLE, in one 12-week schedule, for weeks 1 and 7, it is recommended that flights depart northwest towards Schaumburg and Roselle and arrive from the east, weeks 2 and 8 depart southeast towards Chicago, Norridge and Harwood Heights and arrive from the west, and weeks 3 and 9 depart north towards Des Plaines and arrive from the southwest.
For weeks 4 and 10 the plan is to depart southwest towards Bensenville and Addison and arrive from the east, weeks 5 and 11 depart northeast toward Park Ridge and Niles and arrive from the west and weeks 6 and 12 depart south towards North Lake and Elmhurst and arrive from the northeast. There are also secondary configurations to account for weather.
“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 International Airport.
“THE FLY QUIET Committee has been meeting and developing this plan for the past 7 years and voted to advance the plan in June,” said ONCC chairman Joseph Annunzio. “I am very proud of the work the committee has done in a collaborative and cooperative spirit. The goal of the program was to achieve balance and fairness for the residents around O’Hare – I believe the committee has accomplished that with this plan.”
The original 1997 “Fly Quiet” program has become obsolete due to the O’Hare Modernization Program, which reconfigured the airfield by deactivating runways, adding new parallel runways and extending existing runways, the news release said.
Several “Fly Quiet” test configurations have been performed in 2016 and 2017, and an interim program has been in place from November of 2019 to May of 2020, and September of 2020 through January of 2021.
Going forward, the Chicago Department of Aviation will assemble the proposal for review and approval by the Federal Aviation Administration, the news release said.
“On behalf of CDA, we are ready to work with the FAA as it conducts its regulatory review of this new ‘Fly Quiet’ program,” said city aviation department commissioner Jamie Rhee. “For decades, the ONCC has served as a model for airports worldwide to be good neighbors and engage with their surrounding communities, and we look forward to continuing that work in the years ahead.”
The press release said that the Fly Quiet committee’s recommendations are that outreach materials be provided to the FAA, airlines, and communities about program changes; regular updates including a dedicated Web site, schedules, and construction alternatives; that the Chicago Department of Aviation seek funding for sound insulation to mitigate noise to impacted residents and students; and that the ONCC, CDA, and FAA meet regularly to discuss program accomplishments, issues, and potential enhancements, and to participate in annual audits conducted by committee.