FAA fines Chicago Avi­a­tion Depart­ment $1.5 mil­lion over O’Hare run­way mishap

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY ROBERT HERGUTH, STAFF RE­PORTER rherguth@sun­times.com | @RobertHerg­uth

Fed­eral reg­u­la­tors are tak­ing the un­usual step of fin­ing the Chicago Depart­ment of Avi­a­tion $1.5 mil­lion for fail­ing to keep an O’Hare Air­port run­way safe dur­ing snowy and slick con­di­tions last Novem­ber that might have con­trib­uted to yet an­other jet slid­ing off a land­ing strip.

The avi­a­tion depart­ment has a “snow and ice con­trol plan” that man­dates “the air­port to take spe­cific safety ac­tions if two con­sec­u­tive flight crews re­port poor brak­ing ac­tion after land­ing,” ac­cord­ing to the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“On Nov. 11, 2019, at least two con­sec­u­tive flight crews re­ported poor brak­ing ac­tion three sep­a­rate times after land­ing on Run­way 10-Left” at O’Hare, ac­cord­ing to the FAA, which reg­u­lates U.S. air­ports, air­lines and airspace.

But it says the city agency “failed to limit op­er­a­tions on that run­way, con­duct a run­way con­di­tion as­sess­ment, in­form air­lines about po­ten­tially un­safe con­di­tions or limit op­er­a­tions to safe por­tions of the air­port” and “al­lowed a to­tal of 43 air­craft to land on Run­way 10-Left fol­low­ing the con­sec­u­tive re­ports of poor brak­ing ac­tion.

“One of those air­craft, En­voy Air­lines Flight 4125, slid off the run­way due to poor brak­ing ac­tion.”

No one was in­jured. En­voy op­er­ates un­der the Amer­i­can Ea­gle ban­ner.

The fine comes months after the FAA ham­mered the depart­ment with a $1.3 mil­lion penalty for vi­o­lat­ing train­ing reg­u­la­tions for fire­fight­ers and air­craft res­cue.

The city plans to chal­lenge the lat­est fine, ac­cord­ing to Matt Mc­Grath, a spokesman for Mayor Lori Light­foot’s avi­a­tion com­mis­sioner, Jamie Rhee.

“We do not agree with the find­ings and al­le­ga­tions as laid out here and in­tend to avail our­selves of our right to sub­mit ad­di­tional and mit­i­gat­ing in­for­ma­tion,” said Mc­Grath, who wouldn’t go into what his agency thinks oc­curred on the run­way that day. “We’re not go­ing to discuss this out­side of the proper venue, which in this case is the FAA ad­min­is­tra­tive process.”

O’Hare run­ways have been the source of a num­ber of in­ci­dents amid snowy or wet con­di­tions in re­cent years, the Chicago Sun-Times has re­ported. The FAA noted in is­su­ing the lat­est fine that it “pre­vi­ously is­sued a warn­ing let­ter . . . in Jan­uary 2017 con­cern­ing sim­i­lar vi­o­la­tions at O’Hare in 2015 and 2016.”

One in­ci­dent oc­curred shortly after Christ­mas 2015 when city crews al­lowed “air­craft to con­tinue to use” a run­way “when pi­lot re­ports in­di­cated con­di­tions were de­te­ri­o­rat­ing,” ac­cord­ing to the FAA. As planes took off and landed, sev­eral of them “lost” parts, and one aborted take­off after hit­ting an uniden­ti­fied ob­ject on the run­way.

The Sun-Times has re­ported there also have been mishaps in­volv­ing ground ve­hi­cles and even other planes ac­ci­den­tally cross­ing ac­tive run­ways.


The air­plane that slid from an O’Hare Air­port run­way on Nov. 11, 2019. No­body was in­jured.

Jamie Rhee

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