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Thu, Sep 08, 2005

AOPA Applauds FAA Action On Meigs

But "Sadly, There's Nothing FAA or AOPA Can Do Now To Restore The Airport"

It's a victory for general aviation advocates, a bittersweet win in the aftermath of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's midnight bulldozing session at Meigs Field more than two years ago.

As Aero-News reported in real time on Wednesday, Chicago will have to pay a $33,000 civil penalty this month for Mayor Daley's midnight raid on Meigs Field airport two years ago. That, or request a hearing before the FAA.

AOPA had filed a formal complaint with the agency, alleging that Daley and the city violated both federal law and FAA regulations by not providing proper notice before ripping up the lakeside airport. The FAA agreed and hit Chicago with the maximum penalty allowed by law.

Last week, the FAA sent Chicago a letter saying the city had 15 days to pay or request a hearing. "We are saying either send us a check for $33,000 or request a hearing" before an administrative law judge, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory told the Chicago Tribune.

The FAA continues to investigate another allegation that Chicago illegally diverted $1.5 million in airport funds to pay the contractor who destroyed the runway and taxiway.

"Sadly, nothing that the FAA or AOPA can do now will restore the airport," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "But this, along with AOPA's determined efforts to save other airports, sends the message that you cannot destroy general aviation airports with impunity."

While Meigs supporters ultimately lost the airport, AOPA considers the million dollars it spent to wage the fight money well spent. What came out of the effort today is being applied to save airports everywhere.

Out of the Meigs effort, for example, have come such innovations as the AOPA Airport Support Network and a federal law, the "Meigs Legacy" provision, which imposes hefty fines on anyone who closes an airport without the proper notice to the FAA.



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