Chicago-area airport eyes reliever role

 - July 25, 2007, 4:30 AM

Local officials in Bolingbrook, Ill., a Chicago suburb, took measures last month toward upgrading Clow International Airport (1C5) to a general-aviation reliever airport
and perhaps extending the 3,400-foot runway to 4,000 feet. Trustees unanimously approved hiring a local planning service for about $100,000 to develop an airport-layout scheme to submit to the Illinois Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics and the FAA. The plan would also request state and federal funding for the airport improvements.

The airport, about 25 miles south-southwest of O’Hare, is surrounded by commercial development to the north and east, with residential subdivisions to the south and west. Its single runway, 18-36, is adjoined by paved and unpaved taxiways and tiedown areas. The field’s sole FBO, A&M, conducts line service and maintenance, as well as the leasing of hangar space. There is also an airport restaurant.

In March, city trustees approved issuing $25 million in general obligation bonds to buy Clow. Bolingbrook paid $13.2 million for the 76-acre airport in April and decided it would use $3.8 million to lengthen the runway. Other money would pay for new runway lights, new hangars and a terminal building. The proposal described the airport as “constrained” and the airport-layout plan would show what would be needed to bring the airport up to state and federal standards. Developing the plan is expected to take about a year. It would then be submitted to the Illinois DOT and the FAA.

With the destruction of Meigs Field last year by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, sprucing up a comparable general aviation airport that close to downtown Chicago is an idea that carries some merit. While Clow could never come close to replacing Meigs’ convenience, adding runway capacity for piston aircraft and turboprop twins is an ever-escalating need.