The Day Meigs Field Died

Airfield’s destruction testament to the scourge of absolute power

Meigs Field on the morning of the destruction. Current Mayor Rahm Immanuel ratified Daley's actions as recently as last fall when he announced new plans for the Northerly Island.

Meigs Field on the morning of the destruction. Current Mayor Rahm Immanuel ratified Daley’s actions as recently as last fall when he announced new plans for ¬†Northerly Island. Courtesy: Chicago Sun-Times

Northerly Island is a north-south peninsula off the Chicago lakefront just south of Navy Pier. From 1948 to 2003 it was the location of Meigs Field a 4,000 foot runway and airport that served downtown Chicago.

For a city like Chicago, Meigs was a jewel of the lakefront, a unique feature that also had key functionality for commerce, government, and recreation. The field could land anything up to eight-passenger business jets and prop-driven airliners and allowed direct access to downtown Chicago for business travelers, government employees flown-in from the state capital, and tourists.

However, in the early morning of March 30, 2003, Mayor Richard Daley sent bulldozers to tear-up the field under the guise of 9/11 security concerns, a dubious claim since large airliners never used Meigs. Ironically, the airport’s closure also closed the tower on the field thus removing controlled airspace over the downtown area that only exists when the tower is open.

This is the story of one Air Traffic Controller who came to work that morning to find his office being destroyed before his eyes.  Continue reading