Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling is poised to hire a company to run a trial sound insulation program to help residents affected by jets flying in and out of the facility.
Syracuse, New York-based C&S Companies would be in charge of the $2.7 million effort to provide noise-blocking windows, doors and other new materials for an unspecified number of qualified residents. The trial initiative, funded mostly by the federal government, is set to begin next year at the airport co-owned by Wheeling and Prospect Heights.
"We're excited over this program," said airport board Director Ray Lang, who's also a Wheeling village trustee. "We put money aside on our own a year or so ago and it's become reality now. And it's a great step forward toward being a good partner with the community to help with the noise issues."
Chicago Executive has approval for a $2.5 million soundproofing grant recommended by the Federal Aviation Administration. The airport must provide an additional $250,000.
C&S has led 22 noise mitigation initiatives for airports across the country involving about 25,000 homes and 50 schools and houses of worship. Airport Executive Director Jamie Abbott said he hopes to have a formal contract ready for board consideration next month.
Michael Hotaling, a C&S senior vice president, said the company creates custom programs for its airport clients. As part of the process, he said, specific acoustical testing is required and homes must meet FAA criteria to be eligible for assistance.
Hotaling said the FAA dictates at least 45 decibels of jet noise must be measured inside a single-family house, apartment or condominium near Chicago Executive for its owner to receive funding. First in line would be residents experiencing the most jet noise, he said.
Although the FAA does not cap how much a property owner can receive, an average of $30,000 is spent per eligible home under the program, according to C&S.
C&S project manager Penny Merritt would be in charge of the Chicago Executive test program and is ready to move here from Houston, where she recently completed a noise-related assignment for George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Merritt said she plans to start with a resident survey and public meetings as part of a community outreach effort.
"Treat the people with the same respect you would expect to be treated with," Merritt said. "Sometimes the information isn't always going to be what they want to hear, but just as long as we're keeping them informed -- step by step by step -- letting them know where we are, what's going to be happening next, where we are in the program, that's been our best experience."
Last year, the Chicago Executive board decided to pursue the soundproofing idea over other possible measures to help residents hit hardest by jet noise. Board members dropped a plan to steer nighttime airplane traffic away from nearby homes, which drew criticism from some residents.
Chicago Executive handles about 80,000 takeoffs and landings each year, according to airport figures. That number includes corporate jets and turboprop aircraft used by Fortune 500 companies, along with smaller planes.