Viewpoint: Will FAA force Chicago overflow here?

Viewpoint: Will FAA force Chicago overflow here?

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

While Mayor Doug Scott and Greater Rockford Airport Director James Loomis went to Springfield to testify before the House Aviation Committee about Rockford’s airport, the Chicago press, for the first time, mentioned Rockford in reports on airport congestion.

At the same time, regional and state congressional delegations were taking a dim view of Gov. Ryan’s proposal for a new airport at Peotone. They are more ready to hear what Rockford, Gary and other existing airports can do to relieve congestion at O’Hare.

Federal transportation officials appear on the verge of taking some action on the issue of congestion, but they are not hinting at what that might be.

The recent FAA study on O’Hare has predicted more severe backups in the future.

The issue of O’Hare has escalated into a national debate in the Congress and elsewhere because when O’Hare backs up, it affects many other airports.

Milwaukee already is claiming the title of “Chicago’s third airport.” The Wisconsin airport says it has invested a goodly sum in that label and has registered the phrase. It has notified Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Illinois transportation officials that it claims the third airport designation.

On a purely local level, some airport employees are going to court today (Wednesday) to testify in a case dealing with back pay, fair labor standards and other related issues.

Two lieutenants in the airport’s public safety division have been offered early retirement and are accepting the offer. A union spokesman said that move will preserve the jobs of two lower-level employees.

The union says the airport is claiming they are firefighters because policing duties are being taken over by Rockford police. Airport security personnel say they spend most of their time performing police duties.

Complicating the matter, a formal agreement between the airport and city police administrations seems to be lacking.

In the interim, local officials and congressmen are waiting to see if any major airlines respond to appeals to make use of Greater Rockford Airport.

The possibilities for the airport seem to have reached the take-off point, but are we ready to land anything—safely?

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