By Bob Uphues
The number of complaints filed about noise related to incoming and outgoing flights at Midway Airport in Chicago have exploded in the past two years, according to reports filed by the Chicago Department of Aviation, with many of those complaints filed by residents of Riverside, Brookfield and LaGrange Park.
Complaints about Midway noise spiked dramatically during the third quarter of 2016 in suburban communities located west of the airport. From July 1 through September 30, area residents filed 30,220 complaints about airplane noise.
That's 2,000 more complaints than were filed in all of 2015, which itself set a high-water mark for complaints related to noise at Midway.
The Airport Noise Management System Report for Midway Airport filed last week by the Chicago Department of Aviation noted, however, that 79 percent of the more than 30,000 complaints registered in the third quarter of 2016 came from three addresses.
According to the report, the hotbeds for complaints were the towns of Burbank and Justice. A total of 23,427 complaints were filed from 16 addresses in Burbank, which is located directly west of the airport. The 3,420 complaints from Justice came from one address in that town, according to the report.
But residents of other southwest suburbs clearly noticed the changes in flight patterns that Department of Aviation officials in September said resulted from runway construction at the airport, shifting flights to paths that were FAA-approved, but not typically used.
More than 890 addresses in Indian Head Park accounted for 926 complaints during the third quarter, and LaGrange Park accounted for 524 complaints from 202 addresses.
In Riverside, 330 different addresses accounted for 391 complaints, while 142 addresses accounted for 292 complaints from Western Springs.
Brookfield saw 52 different addresses file 97 total complaints in the third quarter of 2016. North Riverside accounted for eight separate complaints.
Riverside village officials in early October reported that the Chicago Department of Aviation responded to their inquiries by explaining that the runway construction at Midway was expected to result in five different four- to five-day periods where similar flight patterns would be experienced by residents.
At the time, the airport had gone through three of those construction periods and Riverside officials were told they'd be notified when to expect the others. They have not been notified since that time.
However, weather can also account for the particular flight pattern that resulted in the mass of complaints during the third quarter of 2016, and it was impossible to tell exactly when those conditions might come into play, said Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances.
From 2006 through the second quarter of 2016, there were relatively few complaints about noise related to Midway from anyplace. Through 2012, fewer than 500 complaints were filed in any given year.
That number began to ramp up in 2013 (2,281 complaints) and 2014 (3,192), but even then, very few came from Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside. The most complaints filed by Brookfield was six in fourth quarter of 2014, while the most coming from Riverside was 74 (from three addresses) in the second quarter of 2015.
No one in North Riverside had filed a complaint until the third quarter of 2016.
In 2015, complaints skyrocketed to 28,068, fueled then and ever since by complaints from Burbank. Through the third quarter of 2016, a total of 84,563 complaints related to Midway noise have been filed -- 74,247 of them from a handful of addresses in Burbank.