The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

General Aviation a Threat to Chicago?

By Todd McClamroch in News on Oct 12, 2006 9:49PM

10_12_06_airspace.jpgYesterday, Gothamist provided Chicagoist with frequent updates on the tragic accident that killed Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle, and his certified flight instructor, Tyler Stranger. Surely everyone's stomach churned when we first heard the news that a plane had crashed into a building in NYC, and memories of September 11 shot to our minds. But not long after the accident, it was apparent this was thankfully no more than a general aviation accident.

Unfortunately, as a result of this accident, people across the country are asking "Should small planes routinely be allowed to fly directly over big cities like Los Angeles and Chicago?" or "Given the crash in New York, did Mayor Daley do the right thing when he shut down Meigs Field?" In both cases, many of the respondents feel that small planes are a risk. This conclusion has no basis in fact, as a small general aviation aircraft has never been used in a terrorist attack, and in the last five years, there have been only two accidents in the U.S. where a General Aviation aircraft has killed someone in a building.

Accidents in General Aviation aircraft are rare, and accidents that happen over major cities even more so. This accident, while tragic, killed only two people. On a daily basis in major cities there are often car accidents that cause the loss of a life and sometimes two lives. But there is not a national outcry for us to ban cars and trucks within city limits. Think of how many people have been killed by Metra or CTA trains this year. Why is there not a cry for those modes of transportations to be ceased?

General Aviation plays a vital role in our economy. According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, "166 million passengers, including many from your community, fly on the small airplanes of General Aviation (GA). That makes the 211,000 airplanes of GA the nation's largest 'airline'." Additionally, they state that "General Aviation, which includes all flying except for military and scheduled airline operations, makes up more than 1 percent of the U.S. GDP." Based on one accident that resulted in the loss of two lives, it seems irrational to condemn general aviation flights in and around our nation's biggest cities.