A plan to steer nighttime airplane traffic from Chicago Executive Airport away from nearby residents has been dropped.
The airport's board of directors last week voted down spending about $80,000 on a study required to test the effectiveness of the "310 departure" procedure -- a six-month trial program to divert airplanes from homes and over an industrial district in Wheeling between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The board voted 5-1 Wednesday against hiring a consultant for the noise study. Neil Katz was the only director in support.
Instead, the board wants to use the funds for future soundproofing projects through a "sound-attenuation" program largely funded by the Federal Aviation Administration. The federal program helps homeowners hit hardest by jet noise insulate their homes.
As part of the program, the FAA pays for 90 percent of the cost while the airport covers 10 percent. The board announced plans to spend up to $350,000 on the program, which could translate into $3.5 million in total relief for affected homes.
Airport officials said another reason they decided against plane diversion is that the airport could have been on the hook for more funds to implement the 310-departure procedure. If the FAA determined it did reduce noise, an environmental study required to permanently begin the new flight pattern could have cost $200,000 to $225,000 more.
But critics of the switch said spending the money on the 310-departure procedure would have been more cost-effective.
Steve Neff, a community member of the airport's noise committee, criticized the board of directors for ending the program. Diverting airplanes over industrial buildings would mean fewer homes fall in the noisiest area that qualifies for soundproofing in the federal program, he said.
"It's penny-wise and pound-foolish," Neff said of the board's decision. "Because if you're reducing the number of homes that should be sound-attenuated, you're saving money in the long run."
Through a spokesman, every member of the board declined to comment.
The airport is holding a public meeting from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to show residents noise exposure maps. The maps determine which homes would qualify for the federal soundproofing program. The FAA must accept the maps for the airport and homeowners to receive funding.
"Once they accept them, then we are off to the races to get insulation for the most affected homes," airport spokesman Rob Mark said.