NATA Outraged by Meigs Field Closure
Alexandria, VA, March 31, 2003 - National Air Transportation Association (NATA) president James K. Coyne today expressed outrage after the overnight destruction of the only runway at Chicago's Meigs Field.
"I'm absolutely shocked that Mayor Daley has taken it upon himself to literally plow up the runway at Meigs Field," Coyne stated. "That airport has never posed a threat to anyone and should be a major source of pride to the Mayor and the city of Chicago. Instead, the Mayor's outrageous actions make him a laughingstock."
Earlier, in the dark of night, heavy equipment was brought onto the runway at Meigs Field and large portions of the pavement ripped up, making it impossible for airplanes to use the runway. The action, apparently undertaken at the Mayor's direction, effectively closes the airport and the fixed-base operator there - Signature Flight Support - while stranding some 15 airplanes. The Mayor's motivations became clearer at an afternoon press conference where, as expected by NATA, Mayor Daley defended his actions as taken in the name of "national security."
"For years, Mayor Daley quite properly has used the political process in his attempts to close Meigs Field," Coyne said. "In response, Congress has supported keeping the airport open, the FAA has supported keeping the airport open - everyone except the Mayor has supported keeping the airport open. Ultimately, what he could not achieve through normal channels he has achieved by hiding behind the curtain of 'national security.'
"According to our contacts within the federal national security apparatus, currently there is no credible terrorism threat against the City of Chicago," said Coyne. "Daley himself acknowledged that no threat exists, yet believing he knows better than federal security officials, he uses terrorism fears to justify his actions; frightening the very citizens he claims to be protecting. Daley is perpetrating the worst kind of fraud on his own citizens. It's almost as if a sad April Fools' joke was played a day early. Unfortunately, this is no joke.
"The ramifications of this episode go far beyond the shores of Lake Michigan," said Coyne. "Now, any community with the merest whim to close their local airport can do so and point to Chicago as their justification."
NATA's response to the destruction of Meigs Field also included a strong letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey.
"Without swift and strong condemnation by the FAA and others within the federal government, Mayor Daley's actions will be known as the beginning of the end for this nation's highly developed air transportation system," Coyne's letter stated. "Lacking a strong federal response, the result of Mayor Daley's actions will be an environment in which local authorities may, at their convenience, completely disrupt the flow of interstate air commerce."
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