O'HARE — More of the "extremely noisy" planes American Airlines flies in and out of O'Hare Airport are headed for the scrap yard at the request of three Chicago aldermen besieged with complaints about the racket caused by planes using a new runway at the airport, airline officials said Monday.
American Airlines will cut the number of daily flights in and out of O'Hare Airport using McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft by 53 percent, and replace them with quieter, more efficient and more passenger friendly aircraft such as 737s, said American Airlines spokeswoman Leslie Scott.
Heather Cherone discusses whether this really is a victory for neighborhoods affected by the noise:
While American Airlines has been working to replace its fleet of MD-80s for years, Scott said the airline had sped up its efforts at the request of Ald. Mary O'Connor (41st), Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th) and Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th).
As of Aug. 19, 29 American Airlines daily flights to and from O'Hare will be on MD-80 aircraft, compared with 62 in previous months, Scott said.
The newer aircraft that will replace the MD-80s use less fuel, are easier to maintain and offer passengers more amenities like Wi-Fi, Scott said.
However, Scott could not say how many planes were pulled out of services because of what the three aldermen, in a statement issued Saturday, called a "robust dialogue between the aldermen, the mayor’s office and American Airlines."
The statement came 24 hours after the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission released data showing that complaints about jet noise had soared 150 percent from March to July.
"I have been listening to the concerns of my residents regarding airport noise, and I want to ensure that these community concerns are addressed," said Mary O'Connor, thanking American Airlines for its action.
The airline had announced in 2011 that, beginning in 2013, it would aquire 460 new aircraft to replace older models in an effort to reduce operating costs. The 737s are estimated to be 5 percent more fuel-efficient than earlier models.
Since July 2013 — before a new east-west runway opened last fall as part of the $6.6 billion O'Hare Modernization Program — the number of complaints have skyrocketed more than 1,100 percent, according to data from the noise commission.
Most planes now take off toward the west, while arrivals approach from the east, sending hundreds more flights over Northwest Side homes that had little or no jet noise in previous years.
Federal aviation officials said the flight patterns at O'Hare are designed to ensure the airport operates as efficiently and safely as possible.
Jac Charlier, one of the founders of the Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition — a group that formed 18 months ago to object to the new runway at O'Hare — said he was glad to see the aldermen follow the group's lead.
The coalition has been asking elected officials to pressure airlines to use quieter aircraft for a year, Charlier said.
"We need to know specifically what American Airlines is doing because of conversations with our aldermen," Charlier said. "We are again disappointed that no residents or community members were involved in these discussions."
In December 2013, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) introduced what he called the Silent Skies Act, which would require airlines to replace 25 percent of their fleets every five years with quieter aircraft to meet federal noise standards.
“Having long called for reducing the number of flights that use the extremely noisy MD-80 aircraft, I commend American Airlines for their efforts to mitigate noise pollution and improve livability in our community," Quigley said in a news release.
Quigley has called for FAA officials to redo a now-decade old study of the impact of the new flight paths to and from O'Hare on the surrounding neighborhoods, saying the studies did not adequately capture the impact the altered flight paths would have on Chicago neighborhoods and northwest suburbs.
For more NW-side news from Heather Cherone, listen here: