Of Security And Other Angst

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Meigs' Fate Sealed...

As many suspected all along, there was nothing that could be done to save Meigs Field, once it had been rendered unusable by heavy equipment sent in by Mayor Richard Daley last March. That didn't stop Friends of Meigs (FOM), the alphabet groups, Harrison Ford and even a few politicians from trying, but the last chapter of the long and bitter story would appear to have been written at a meeting of the Chicago Park Board last Wednesday. "The decision to close the airport has already been made," said Park Board President Maria Saldana as she presided over a unanimous vote to award a $1.5 million contract to remove what's left of the runway and replace it with topsoil. The FOM had asked that the contract decision be deferred while it worked on a combined airport/park plan it hoped would satisfy everyone. "There was not even any discussion between board members prior to the vote on the issue," said an account of the proceedings on the FOM's Web site. The FOM noted that all members on the Park Board are appointed personally by Daley and it's the only such entity in all of Illinois. The FOM suggested that an elected board might have been more sensitive to the fact that a Chicago Tribune poll recently showed that 65 percent of residents opposed closing the airport. The demolition work was to have begun in the fall but the Park Board has apparently decided sooner is better and wants the work started within a month.

...Maybe The President Will Listen...

Public opinion might not have been a factor in Chicago but AOPA is hoping an election-focused George W. Bush will listen to his flying constituents about all the trouble he causes them when he drops in for a visit. And there's no place like home for that message to hit. Over the past weekend, Bush used his Crawford, Texas, ranch as his base for some visits to his old stomping grounds in Dallas and Houston. The result was a series of overlapping TFRs that closed a total of 70 airports and inconvenienced hundreds of pilots. AOPA is hoping all Texas pilots affected will write a letter directly to Bush informing him of the trouble he caused them. "Don't send an e-mail," warned AOPA VP Andy Cebula. "It might as well be junk mail. Send a letter. In Washington, a piece of paper carries a lot more weight." The White House address is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 20500. AOPA President Phil Boyer said that since Bush is a pilot he should know the effects of his portable TFRs and he should tell the Secret Service to lighten up. "Today it's Texas. Tomorrow it's wherever the next stop on the campaign trail is," Boyer said. "It's time for the president's security personnel to stop treating GA pilots like criminal suspects."

...FAA Hears Concerns

Now, the Secret Service might not be swayed much by public opinion, but the FAA has shown that it can accept a common-sense suggestion. The weekend restrictions were going to particularly affect Crawford-area pilots. Generally, the 30-nm TFR around the ranch is only in effect when Bush is actually there. But for some reason the TFR was set to remain in place even when Bush was safely under the no-fly zones around Houston and Dallas. That was until AOPA got in touch with the FAA. The Crawford TFRs were changed at the last minute to reflect the president's physical presence on the ranch. "Apparently our comments made someone at the FAA step back and take another look at the situation," said AOPA VP Melissa Bailey. It's a small victory, however, and AOPA's fight against the presidential TFRs will continue. "AOPA members continue to question the size and scope of these presidential TFRs for the burden they create for general aviation pilots," Bailey said.