Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Merrill C. Meigs Field Airport (IATA airport code CGX) was a single strip airport built on Northerly Island, the landfill originally created to house the 1933-1934 Century of Progress in Chicago, Illinois. The airport opened on December 10, 1948 and became the country's busiest single-strip airport by 1955. The latest air traffic tower was built in 1952 and the terminal was dedicated in 1961. The airfield was named for Merrill C. Meigs, publisher of the Chicago Herald and Examiner and an aviation booster.
Northerly Island was not originally intended for private use. It is the first and only lakefront island to be built based on Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago. In this image, Northerly Island forms the southern border of Chicago Harbor (now Monroe Harbor).
The airport was a familiar sight on the downtown lake front. It is also well known because it was used as the default take-off field in many early versions of the popular Microsoft Flight Simulator software program.
The Main Terminal Building was operated by the Chicago Department of Aviation and contains waiting areas as well as office and counter space. The runway at Meigs Feld was nearly 3900 feet (1,200 m) long and 150 feet (46 m) wide. In addition, there were four public helicopter pads at the south end of the runway, near McCormick Place. The north end of the runaway was near the Adler Planetarium.
In 1995, Mayor Richard M. Daley's office recommended closing Meigs Field and turning Northerly Island into 75 acres (304,000 m²) of lakefront park. A compromise was reached between Chicago, the State of Illinois, and others to keep the airport open in 2001. However, the federal legislation component of the deal did not pass the United States Congress.
With a controversial move on March 30, 2003, Mayor Daley closed the airport by illegally bulldozing large 'X's into the runway late that night. Since this was done without prior notice, sixteen planes were left stranded at the airport.
The Mayor's office stated the reasons for closing the field were safety concerns:
- That a plane might accidentally crash into one of the skyscrapers downtown.
- That terrorists could use flying to Meigs Field as an excuse to fly a plane into a skyscraper downtown.
As of April 2003, several groups led by the Friends of Meigs Field were beginning another court battle to have the airport re-opened.
As of June 2003, the conversion to a lakefront park was fully underway, and it was highly unlikely the airport would ever be re-opened. The total cost of the park conversion was estimated at 2.6 million USD, but the Mayor's office had not yet stated where that money would come from.
On July 13, 2003, a U.S. Border Patrol helicopter made an emergency landing at the closed Meigs Field when the pilot feared that a bird had struck his helicopter.
On February 4, 2004 the FAA announced the City of Chicago could face a fine of up to $99,000 for failing to give 90 days advance notice of the airport's closure. After the illegal closing of Meigs field, a new law known as the "Meigs Legacy provision" raised the maximum fine to $900,000. The constitutional prohibition against ex post facto ("after the fact") prosecution prevented the higher fine from applying in its namesake case.
On October 1, 2004 the FAA announced they will fine the City of Chicago $33,000 for failing to give advance notice of the airport's closure. This fine represents a fine of $1,100 per day for the 30 days required advanced notice the city failed to give. They are also launching an investigation into the misuse of $1.5 million in restricted funds that could result in a fine of nearly $5 million against the city.
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