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5/3/04 Airliner scare

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From www.Avweb.com's AvFlash 10.19a, May 3, 2004:

MEIGS CLOSURE CITED IN AIRLINER SCARE

The closure of Meigs Field (for security reasons, remember?) has been implicated in an incident that gave a Chicago baseball stadium full of people a collective case of the jitters. The FAA is investigating whether an ATA Boeing 737-800 was dangerously (or illegally) low when it passed over U.S. Cellular Field on approach to Midway Airport on Thursday. According to CBS 2 Chicago, the closure of Meigs eliminated restricted airspace that had previously kept aircraft approaching Midway away from the stadium. Of course, that doesn't really explain why the 737 was, according to the FAA, just 700 feet AGL when it was still 6.5 miles from the runway. More...

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The original story appeared 4/30/04 on CBS 2 Chicago:

Plane Scares Fans At Cellular Field

VIDEO: Jim Tilmon reports.

Apr 30, 2004 4:39 pm US/Central CHICAGO (CBS 2) New information about a scare over U.S. Cellular Field shows there may have been real cause for concern. Thursday night, startled fans could barely believe their eyes as a passenger plane flew very close to the stadium.

The F.A.A. says it's investigating ATA flight 670, a 737-800 commercial airliner that some thought came dangerously close to the ballpark.

"I've never seen an airplane that low over the park before," White Sox announcer Ken Harrelson said during Friday’s game broadcast.

Harrelson has worked at U.S. Cellular Field since they built the ball park.

"I have never seen a plane, in all the years that we have been there, an airplane that low. And, it scared me, it really did,” said Harrelson. “I guarantee you, if there were passengers on that plane, they may have been able to see the numbers on the guy's backs on the field."

I presented Hawk with a possible scenario for last night’s low flight. We took a look at a layout of the Chicago area, and located the relative positions of Midway airport, U.S. Cellular Field and, what was, Meigs Field.

When Meigs was in operation there was a restriction that would not allow low flying aircraft to fly close to Meigs.

Now that Meigs is closed, airplanes are allowed to fly closer to that area, and that brings them closer to the ballpark.

Apparently, some thought it was too close and too low.

"It scared me, it really did," he said. "I'm thinking to myself, oh man, I hope this plane’s not in trouble."

There were early reports that the aircraft was legally flying at, or above, 1500 feet. A later check with the FAA revealed that flight was at about 700 feet above the ballpark.

Hawk agreed.

“I'll kiss your ass if that plane was 1500 feet,” he said.

With new procedures in place allowing low altitude flights closer to Lake Michigan, it is possible that flights near the ballpark may occur from time to time. But, US Cellular Field is about 6.5 miles from Midway Airport. And, if this aircraft was 700 feet above the ballpark, there is certainly cause for an investigation.

Jim Tilmon

(MMIV, CBS Broadcasting Inc., All Rights Reserved.)

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