For Immediate Release

October 1, 2004
Contact: Tony Molinaro, Greg Martin
Phone: (847) 294-7427, (202) 267-3883

WASHINGTON, DC — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced that it is taking legal action over the 2003 closure of Meigs Field which could result in penalties against the city of Chicago. The FAA is citing the agency’s regulatory responsibility to preserve the national airspace system and ensure the traveling public with reasonable access to airports as the basis for its action today.

The FAA is proposing a civil penalty of $33,000, the legal maximum, against the city and, separately, is initiating an investigation into possible violations by the city of its federal grant assurances and its airport sponsor obligations.

The $33,000 proposed civil penalty stems from the city’s failure to provide the required 30-day notice to the FAA of the deactivation of Meigs Field. The notice requirement is intended to allow the FAA to study proposed actions that may affect the national airspace system prior to the actions being taken. According to FAA regulations, a maximum penalty of $1,100 per day can be assessed for a violation of this type.

Additionally, the FAA has initiated an investigation to determine whether the city improperly diverted $1.5 million in restricted airport revenues to pay for demolishing the runway at Meigs and for its conversion from an airport into a city park. The city has 30 days to reply to the FAA on these issues.

The FAA has held several discussions with representatives of the city to reach an informal resolution of the issues, but it will now move forward with these formal actions to obtain additional facts. In addition to the possibility of a civil penalty of $33,000, the city of Chicago could be required to return monies to the O’Hare Airport Development Fund. Should the city refuse to return any improperly diverted revenue to the Fund, further sanctions are possible, including a civil penalty of up to three times the amount of the diverted funds.