Helicopter Noise
At 9a.m. on Sunday, March 5, 2006, our New Eastside community was given an opportunity to experience the sound from a helicopter installing new air conditioning units on the Fairmont Hotel.  Within the past few weeks, we became aware of a plan to establish a heliport just east of the marine station in DuSable Harbor.

Using a Realistic Model 33-2050 Sound Level Meter on the A-weighted scale from the 51st floor at Harbor Point, the sound pressure increased from the ambient of 64db to 75db. That is slightly over DOUBLING of the perceived noise to the human ear. The distance from Harbor Point to the Fairmont is approximately 1600 feet, compared to 1430 feet from the Park Shore to the proposed heliport.

The A-weighted scale measures primarily frequencies from 500 to 10,000, which is the greatest sensitivity to the human ear. On the C-weighted scale that includes lower frequencies (32-10,000), the sound level increased from 72 to 80.
The adjacent New Eastside residential community and the boating community in DuSable Harbor have not been consulted as of March, 2006.  Individuals within the community have expressed concerns with the proposed heliport, and an attempt is being made to obtain the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on this proposed heliport.
Page Visits
This page was last updated: June 14, 2008
Sign InView Entries
<..........HELICOPTER #N827NW
Return to NewEastside.ORG Homepage
Heliport Update   March 3, 2006

Lake Point Tower Site Manager Tim Patricio and SOAR President Jim Houston were invited to a meeting Friday morning in Alderman Natarus’ office concerning the Helistop.  Also invited by the Alderman were two managers from the City Department of Aviation, and the Assistant to the Mayor.  The following was determined in this meeting:

•  This proposed project is in the early feasibility stage, and no proposal has been prepared for city approval.
•  The primary objective is rescue and emergency use by Coast Guard, City Police and Fire, and FEMA for critical situations.
•  When pressed by Alderman Natarus about the source of rumors of extending usage to private parties, Aviation managers admitted the following:
    o  Maintaining the Helistop for emergency readiness requires personnel and equipment not presently in the city budget.
    o  Some consideration had been given to bidding out private landing rights for a fee, to cover the operational costs.
•  It was obvious that this had been kept quiet, and the Alderman had not been aware of this consideration beyond the rumor that came to his attention the middle of this past week.
•  The Alderman stated emphatically that the Dept. of Aviation should seek such funding from governmental budgets, so the Helistop could be limited to occasional required emergency use only, with no additional flights for business executives, ambassadors, or other dignitaries for their convenience.
•  The Alderman committed to vote against any proposal for this Helistop that goes beyond rescue and emergency use.
•  One of the feasibility criteria is noise levels, and the Dept. of Aviation had planned noise measurements.
    o   As a result of this meeting, noise studies will be conducted at Lake Point Tower and Park Shore Condominiums. 
    o  The Lake Point Tower measurements will be taken at ground level, from a condo part way up the Southeast wing, and a condo near the top of the Southeast wing.
    o  The test will use the Fire Department Blackhawk helicopter, which is the loudest vehicle that would be used for emergency use, and on a day when the wind is out of the east.
    o  Instrument measurements will be taken, and the Alderman, Lake Point management/Board members and Mr. Houston will be invited to be present during the testing, to add the element of human perception of the noise level.
    o  If volume levels are determined to exceed permitted levels, this site will be eliminated from consideration.
•  The Aviation Department needs to keep the Alderman, Lake Point Tower and SOAR advised of the various stages of this project so there is adequate opportunity for community response as it progresses.

Since this is not yet up for approval consideration, and the impact on the community is being studied, the petitions that were under consideration are not necessary at this time.

Chicago Tribune    February 10, 2006

No Meigs? How about a heliport?
3 years after lake airstrip bulldozed, new site approved

By Jon Hilkevitch, Tribune transportation reporter. Tribune reporter Gary Washburn contributed to this report

Chicago will open a heliport on the lakefront just south of Navy Pier this spring for use by police and fire helicopters, other emergency first-responders and some private choppers, under a city plan approved by the state and federal governments, the Tribune has learned.

The city's resumption of aviation access to downtown comes almost three years after Mayor Richard Daley, saying he was protecting the Sears Tower and other high-rises from a possible terrorist attack by a bomb-laden light plane, ordered his infamous midnight raid to demolish Meigs Field.

A single helicopter landing pad with one parking spot, officially dubbed the Chicago Helistop, is expected to open as early as April, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. The helistop, smaller than a traditional heliport that accommodates multiple copters, will be at the marine safety station near the mouth of the Chicago River on a concrete platform in Lake Michigan known as South Pier.

"Particularly after the 9/11 attacks, a location close to the center of the city is critical for Chicago and critical for all of us to be able to respond quickly in an emergency," said Susan Shea, director of aeronautics for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

IDOT and the Federal Aviation Administration recently approved the helistop after it passed an inspection for restricted landing areas and an FAA airspace safety study that examined possible conflicts between the helistop and Midway Airport and Children's Memorial Hospital, which has its own helicopter landing pad.

No obstacles expected

Zoning changes providing the final clearance for helicopter operations to start are expected to go before the City Council in a few weeks, officials said, adding that no major objections are expected.

Helicopters will approach and depart the helistop over the lake, officials said, minimizing noise affecting lakefront residences and the Streeterville neighborhood and eliminating safety concerns about helicopters flying over downtown skyscrapers.

The city's decision to build the helistop, on Park District-owned land even closer to downtown than Meigs was, appears to signal that Daley no longer thinks a landing facility near downtown would increase the terrorist threat.

But the mayor said the need to protect Chicagoans from an attack has not gone away. When asked Thursday about President Bush's disclosure of a purported terrorist plot to crash a plane into a skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles in 2002, Daley said: "We have not changed. I can go out and get a two-engine plane, get in it and fly any place in America except over Disneyland."

Early on March 30, 2003, under floodlights and escorted by police, bulldozers carved large "X's" into the single runway at Meigs on Northerly Island, a move that Daley said was necessary to protect the downtown from menacing small aircraft.

Meigs, which for 55 years was used mostly by private pilots and business people who appreciated the airfield's proximity to downtown, also had seven helicopter pads used by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Fire Department marine rescue unit, nearby hospitals and the public.

"The city's new helistop shows that Meigs was closed under false pretenses," said Josh Levy, spokesman for the Friends of Meigs Field, a booster organization for the former airport.

Levy, a private airplane pilot, said there is still a need for a downtown landing facility to accommodate fixed-wing aircraft.

The city is fighting a $33,000 civil penalty imposed by the FAA for failure to provide 30 days' notice before closing Meigs. The Daley administration is transforming that property into a nature sanctuary and entertainment site.

300 flights a month

About 300 flights are expected per month at the helistop, the city said, although the numbers could increase depending on how many private helicopters use the facility.

The helistop will be primarily for helicopters operated by the city's Police and Fire Departments, the Coast Guard, the military, hospitals and other emergency-assistance agencies, said city aviation spokeswoman Wendy Abrams. The dimensions of the touchdown and liftoff area will be 40 feet by 40 feet.

But some privately owned helicopters will be permitted to use the landing and takeoff pad to help the city defray the costs of operating the helistop, she said.

The Coast Guard, the Chicago police marine unit and the Illinois Department of Conservation police will retain their offices in a building next to the pier, city officials said.

The Fire Department's rescue helicopter, which was relocated to 95th Street at the lakefront after the city closed Meigs, will use the new helistop, but the fire chopper will continue to be based on the South Side, officials said.

The Police Department, which began operating its own helicopter in January, said the helistop will support the bird's-eye view used in police patrols, tactical surveillance and homeland security missions.

"We deploy aerial missions every day, and the helistop will help us respond more quickly to reports of missing persons, foot and vehicle pursuits, as well as helping officers on the ground during large public events like the Taste of Chicago," police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

City officials estimated the cost of upgrading South Pier, near DuSable Harbor, for the helistop at $50,000 to $70,000. The existing concrete pier will be painted orange and white to outline the landing pad and parking place; lighting will be installed for night and low-visibility operations; weather-reporting equipment will be added and a windsock installed.

Private helicopter operators will be required to pass stringent background checks and air-defense security procedures before being allowed to use the helistop, Abrams said.

Minutes from the Loop, the landing and takeoff pad could prove extremely popular with local VIPs and companies seeking to ferry executives by helicopter to downtown from Chicago-area airports.

The helistop potentially could be used by the Secret Service to shuttle the president from O'Hare International Airport to downtown, removing the need for long presidential motorcades that tie up traffic on the Kennedy Expressway.

Chicago-based Boeing Co., which keeps its Midwest-based corporate jets at Gary-Chicago International Airport, was studying the concept of a downtown heliport even before it agreed to move its headquarters to the city.

Boeing surprised by deal

But Boeing officials said they were not aware of the city's helistop plans.The only public notice about the helistop was in a legal ad published late last year in the classified section of a suburban newspaper, according to IDOT documents.

The South Pier location for the helistop was Chicago's second choice. City aviation officials first wanted to build a helicopter pad on top of McCormick Place, but the logistics did not work out, officials said

Copyright 2006 Chicago Tribune

March 6, 2006

Alderman Burton F. Natarus
42nd Ward
Room 306, City Hall
121 N. LaSalle Street
Chicago, Illinois   60602-1202


Dear Alderman Natarus,

This letter is written on behalf of the many homeowners residing in The Buckingham, Harbor Point, The ParkShore and 400 E. Randolph.  As the Board Presidents of the four concerned condominium associations, we would like to bring to your attention a recent article in the Chicago Tribune about the creation of a “Chicago Helistop” on South Pier.  The article by Jon Hilkevitch, Tribune transportation reporter, states:

About 300 flights are expected per month at the helistop, the city said, although the numbers could increase depending on how many private helicopters use the facility.
We have received numerous negative comments from residents of our buildings regarding their grave concerns about locating a helistop so close to our high-rise communities.  There is obvious concern about ongoing disturbances from the helicopter engine noise, as well as the aircraft and landing lights.  Placing this heliport immediately adjacent to several residential buildings like ours is inconsiderate of the thousands of tax-paying homeowners that are entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of their homes. 
Of greater concern is the possible increase in insurance premiums our associations may face due to the location of this heliport.  Following the events of September 11, 2001, high-rise buildings such as ours experienced significant cost increases in insurance premiums, and saw a reduction in those companies willing to insure premier properties that could be considered as terrorist targets.  If the City of Chicago creates this increased expense for us, what will be done to compensate our residents who already face increases in property taxes with the 2006 triennial reassessment?  How will the City compensate for the loss of life or property if there is a helicopter accident?  The City is inviting this risk into our communities.
On behalf of all the New East Side residents, we urge you to explore alternate locations for this helistop.  For example, Northerly Island is not adjacent to residential buildings yet is still convenient to downtown in case of emergency.  Anything you may be able to do to assist in addressing these concerns would be greatly appreciated.  We thank you for your time and attention to this matter. 

Sherry Hirsch          Thomas Hoglund
President, Board of Directors         President, Board of Directors
The Buckingham Condominium Association155 Harbor Drive Condominium Association
360 E. Randolph                     155 N. Harbor Drive

David A. Strouse            Penny Gronwold
President, Board of Directors         President, Board of Directors
The ParkShore Condominium Association   400 E. Randolph Condominium Association
195 N. Harbor Drive                400 E. Randolph

Letter from Alderman Burton Natarus to the 4 Association Presidents:

It is very unfortunate that the article written by Jon Hilkevitch, Tribune transportation reporter has caused such a panic among my constituents. The truth of the matter is that the article is very non-factual in many respects. I admit that there was a proposal for a helipad for the purpose of being used by the Coast Guard for water safety rescue, the Fire Department for emergencies, the Police Department for emergencies, and the very few medical situations involving spinal injuries, and no more.

There has never been an attempt to install a commercial landing pad. I have already expressed my concern to the proper authorities and I have been advised that alternative sites are being proposed.

Trust me when I state to you that I am on top of this and I agree throughly with your concerns.

Very truly yours,

Burton F. Natarus
Alderman 42nd Ward

cc: Jon Hilkevitch
On Wednesday, April 26, 2006, a team of professional acoustic engineers (hired by the Dept. of Aviation) conducted tests of the largest helicopter owned by the City of Chicago. The tests were monitored by Jim Houston of SOAR, Dennis Sinclair of the Park Shore, Brad Johnson of Harbor Point, and Richard Ward of NEAR. The analysis and results will be available on this webpage.
Proposed Emergency Heliport
Photo taken from the 9th floor of Park Shore with a 3x lens.