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New Midway Flight Path Has South Siders Looking Up, Cursing The Heavens

By Chuck Sudo in News on May 12, 2014 9:00PM

Photo credit: Duane Rapp

Bridgeport residents are complaining about an increase in flights heading into Midway Airport flying overhead in recent months. The culprit is a new flight path into Midway’s Runway 22L that replaces an old buttonhook approach with a straighter line to the World’s Busiest Square Mile from Lake Michigan that parallels the I&M Canal and places airplanes over Bridgeport, McKinley Park, Brighton Park and Archer Heights.

The altitude of the planes making their approaches to Midway is between 2,500 around the lakeshore, about 800 feet higher than Willis Tower. By the time planes reach Bridgeport they’re at an altitude slightly higher than Willis Tower, 1,500 feet. Runway 22L is used for arrivals whenever the winds blow from the south or southwest, which has been often lately. The runway has received between 300 to 400 flights a day, an air traffic controller at Midway told the Sun-Times. Flights over Bridgeport have become so common that longtime residents say they’ve never seen anything like it.

Bridgeport resident Peggy Weyer said she’s seen planes overhead before, but nothing like the recent onslaught — virtually every few minutes at times — and never this low.

She’s even suddenly noticed planes with their lights on and wheels down.

“If I can read what’s on the plane and know what type of plane it is, it’s low,’’ Weyer said.

An FAA spokesman told the Sun-Times the flights aren’t approaching at lower altitudes, just over different areas and that the new approach is permanent.

“This is part of an initiative to improve approaches so they save time for travelers, reduce emissions in the air and fly over less populated areas,’’ (FAA spokesman Tony) Molinaro said by email.

The city worked with the Midway Noise Abatement Commission to hold public meetings about the changes last spring, Molinaro said, and even soundproofed some homes before it was launched.

Weyer and other Bridgeport residents said they were unaware of the public meetings. Neither does Ald. James Balcer (11th), who added he can’t remember if he was invited to the meetings but is all too familiar with the noise complaints. Balcer hopes to have a meeting with the Chicago Department of Aviation Commission about the noise complaints, which more than doubled in the first quarter of 2014 over the same time frame last year. Through March 31, 140 complaints regarding flights into Midway have been reported.