Rockford could benefit from O’Hare backup

U.S. Rep. Donald A. Manzullo (R-16) of Egan issued a press release Aug. 10 that said he sent 14 letters to leaders of airline companies urging them to use the Rockford airport as an alternative to a heavily congested O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Federal officials cite O’Hare congestion as the primary reason for local and national flight delays.

According to the Chicago Tribune, O’Hare can safely handle 100 flights per hour under ideal weather conditions. However, ideal conditions don’t occur frequently enough to handle current or anticipated future air traffic.

A recent Federal Aviation Administration document cites O’Hare congestion as being “likely responsible for a significant portion of [airline flight] delays recorded nationally.” As a result, Rockford airport officials and Manzullo have pushed for Rockford to be considered as an alternative to immediately solve the air traffic problems.

Federal authorities are demanding airlines ease O’Hare’s traffic, or a cap may be placed on the number of flights out of that airport. The Chicago Sun-Times reported Aug. 4 that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley may be willing to accept temporary caps if the feds speedily approve Daley’s planned “massive runway expansion project” at O’Hare.

While Rockford officials argue for more area flights and Daley wants more runways, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Aug. 6 that O’Hare’s flight delays have been a “boon” to Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. The Journal-Sentinel reported a 30 percent increase in Illinois license plates parked at Mitchell from January 2003 to January 2004.

Carol Skornicka, Midwest Airlines’ senior vice president, said, “It’s got to be to some extent attributable to the hassle factor at O’Hare.”

Rockford airport board commissioners recently approved spending $650,000 to prepare a gate for handling international flights. Late last year, Manzullo and airport board members lobbied to land direct flights from Budapest, Hungary, to Rockford.

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