Village seeks louder voice on airplane noise

In response to residents’ complaints about increased airplane noise, Hinsdale has joined with other communities in proximity to Chicago’s airports to find ways to address the nuisance.

At Tuesday’s village board meeting, Hinsdale trustees approved intergovernmental agreements with the city of Chicago to participate in the advisory noise compatibility commissions for both Midway and O’Hare airports.

“Most of the noise complaints we’ve gotten are related to Midway, right?” Village President Tom Cauley asked of village staff.

Village manager Kathleen Gargano confirmed that, identifying low-flying Southwest Airlines flights as the most cited annoyance.

The commissions, which cost nothing to join, identify projects and programs that can help reduce the amount of noise, monitor noise levels and advise the city on addressing air traffic-related noise issues, according to village documents. Minutes from the Midway Noise Compatibility Commission indicate that at least eight other suburban communities are part of the group.

Aaron Frame, deputy commissioner for Chicago’s department of aviation, acknowledged to trustees that there is strong resistance to getting flight patterns changed since they are based primarily on wind direction.

“It is very difficult to change air traffic patterns, because those are well choreographed, well-analyzed and thought out in advance,” he explained at the meeting. “Air traffic patterns are generally not random.

“Depending on whether (flights) are in west-flow or east-flow will probably affect what airplanes you’re seeing in the vicinity of Hinsdale,” Frame continued.

While pilots have a bit of latitude to alter a pattern, Frame said generally they do not deviate from the flight path they have been provided.

Cauley inquired about other tools the commissions has to reduce noise apart from changing flight patterns.

“One of the ways we do that is by reducing the number of runways,” responded Frame, noting that O’Hare offers more flexibility because it has eight runways to work with compared to five at Midway. “We talk about what choices can we make to run an airfield that’s more efficient at night instead of using all the runways equally.”

Daytime is trickier, Frame said, simply because the airports are so busy.

“Air traffic control is very good at separating the planes. They have different altitudes for planes coming in and out of both airports,” he said. “There are ways that we can encourage and work with the airlines to be mindful that there are many people who work at the airports and many people who live around the airports.”

The commissions’ meetings are held quarterly, and Gargano said she would attend as the village representative.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean