Bill Would Ban Meigs-Like Closures
In the dark and gloomy
night that's become general and business aviation over the past two
years, there may be a little light shining in Congress. FAA
insiders call it "The Meigs Provision."
It's part of the FAA reauthorization bill that, if it survives,
is supposed to prevent bozo-esque politicians from
arbitrarily shutting down airports. When we say bozo-esque
politicians, we refer to the likes of Mayor Richard Daley; when we
say airports, we specifically refer to the forced, no-notice
closure of Meigs Field in Chicago earlier this year.
Mouthing concerns about terrorism just minutes from the Loop
(the heart of downtown Chicago), Daley sent bulldozers in the dark of night March
30th to carve huge "X's" in the Meigs runway, rendering it
unusable. The aviation community was outraged. But
there was nothing it or the FAA could do. Daley's was a done dirty
Since the destruction
of Meigs' runway, GA aircraft have been forced to operate from
O'Hare, Midway and other airports around Chicago. The resulting
congestion has caused big problems at the Elgin (IL) TRACON. There
were just four ATC-related errors reported in 2002. Since Daley
bulldozed Meigs, that number has risen to 20 so far this year.
"The closure of Meigs and the new mix of small and large
aircraft we are seeing is bogging down Midway and making our job
incredibly more complex in the airspace around Midway, Meigs and
O'Hare," said Ray Gibbons, president of the controllers union at
the Elgin FAA center.
Meigs wasn't the first
and won't be the last airport threatened by politicians who are
unsympathetic to the plight of general aviation. St. Petersburg (FL) holds a vote next week on
whether to turn Albert Whitted Airport into a recreation
area. Airport supporters say the deal is really a sham
to cover the sale of at least half the airport property -- which,
like Meigs -- sits adjacent to a sparkling body of water -- to
developers. Never mind the federal and state grants to Whitted that
would have to be repaid.
Under the "Meigs Provision," that sort of thing wouldn't be
permitted without a stringent FAA review. "The closing of Meigs is
one of those things that has really been a terrific problem from
all of our standpoint," FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said. "The
legislation would prevent an airport like that from being converted
without other considerations being made."
Under the proposed legislation, local governments would have to
give the FAA at least 30 days' notice before shutting down an
airport. Failure to comply would cost local governments $10,000 a
day for each day the facility remained closed.
It's the second major boon to GA contained in the pending FAA
Reauthorization Bill. As ANN recently reported, several senators
have asked members of the subcommittee steering that piece of
legislation to grant $100 million to GA operators hardest hit by
the fallout from 9/11. The major beneficiaries from that grant
would be individuals and companies shut down or severely hampered
by creation of the Washington ADIZ.