November 29, 2000 Chicago Sun-Times

Planes flying too low, suburb's residents say

November 29, 2000

BY ROBERT C. HERGUTH TRANSPORTATION REPORTER

Airplanes headed for O'Hare Airport are flying too low over the northwest suburbs, sometimes at only 1,800 feet, Barrington residents claimed Tuesday as they complained that noise levels have been increasing since summer.

"Nobody's complaining about the frequency; we're complaining about the noise and the low altitude," Michael Blandford, a former airline pilot who lives in Barrington, told the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission. "We've got to find a compromise."

Blandford said planes are flying over his neighborhood at an estimated altitude of 1,800 to 2,400 feet. While that's not an illegal level, planes could--and should--be twice as high at that distance from O'Hare, he said.

Blandford added that he first blamed the city, which operates O'Hare, but now realizes the Federal Aviation Administration, air traffic controllers and the airlines seem to be at fault.

The city promised to look into his reports. "We will review it," Assistant Chicago Aviation Commissioner Chris Arman said during the meeting of the commission's technical panel.

Also released at the meeting were figures showing the runway that spills planes over the northwest suburbs, including Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect and Rolling Meadows, is the busiest departure strip at night. The number of departures on the runway, 32-Left, grew from the third quarter of 1999 to the same period this year.

Arlene Mulder, Arlington Heights' village president and the commission's chair, called the runway "over-utilized" at night and said she's enthusiastic about a new initiative that will target airlines responsible for individual night-time noise events.

Arman said runway 32-Left often is favored by pilots and controllers because it's the longest and widest strip.

But Mulder lamented, "My feeling is sometimes convenience dictates the choice."

She said she would like O'Hare controllers to become regular participants in the noise debate.

Meanwhile, the number of callers to the city's noise hotline increased in July, August and September over the same period last year. Many of the new calls originated in Franklin Park, Des Plaines and Park Ridge.