Meigs Field: The Rise, Fall, and Potential Revival of Chicago’s Historic Airport

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Meigs Field: The Rise, Fall, and Potential Revival of Chicago’s Historic Airport

Meigs Field was a single runway airport located on Northerly Island, near the downtown area of Chicago, Illinois. It was in operation from 1948 until 2003 and played a significant role in the city’s aviation history. The airport served as a hub for private and business flights, and its convenient location made it a popular choice for travelers heading to or from the city.

The Rise of Meigs Field

Meigs Field was originally built as a temporary airfield during World War II, but it continued to operate as a general aviation airport after the war ended. The airport underwent several expansions and improvements over the years, including the addition of a control tower and terminal building. By the 1990s, Meigs Field was an important transportation hub for Chicago, providing easy access to the city for private pilots and corporate flyers.

The Fall of Meigs Field

In 2003, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley ordered the closure of Meigs Field under the cover of darkness. The airport’s runway was bulldozed in the middle of the night, without warning or prior notice to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or the pilots who used the airport. This controversial move sparked outrage among the aviation community and led to a legal battle between the city and the FAA.

The official reason given for the closure was concerns about security in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. However, many people believe that Mayor Daley’s real motive was to clear the way for the development of a park and nature preserve on Northerly Island. The sudden and unexpected closure of Meigs Field was a blow to the aviation industry and a loss for the city of Chicago.

The Potential Revival of Meigs Field

In recent years, there has been renewed interest in reviving Meigs Field as an airport. Proponents of the idea argue that the airport’s convenient location and historic significance make it an important asset for the city. They believe that reopening Meigs Field could help alleviate congestion at other area airports and provide a boost to the local economy.

However, there are significant obstacles to overcome in order to bring Meigs Field back to life. The airport’s former runway has been replaced with a park and nature preserve, and there is no infrastructure in place to support aviation operations. Reopening the airport would require substantial investment in runway reconstruction, terminal facilities, and air traffic control services.

There are also legal and political challenges to consider. The closure of Meigs Field was a controversial and divisive issue, and there are still strong opinions on both sides of the debate. Any attempt to revive the airport would need to navigate these challenges and gain support from a wide range of stakeholders, including government agencies, local residents, and the aviation community.


Meigs Field was a historic and beloved airport that played an important role in Chicago’s aviation history. Its sudden closure in 2003 was a major loss for the city and the aviation community. While there is interest in reviving the airport, there are significant challenges to overcome in order to make it a reality. The future of Meigs Field remains uncertain, but its legacy as a unique and iconic airport will not be forgotten.


Is Meigs Field still closed?

Yes, Meigs Field remains closed to aviation operations. The former airport site has been converted into a park and nature preserve.

Is there any plan to reopen Meigs Field?

While there has been some discussion about the possibility of reviving Meigs Field as an airport, there are no concrete plans in place at this time. The idea of reopening the airport faces numerous challenges and obstacles.

What is the current status of the former Meigs Field site?

The former airport site on Northerly Island has been transformed into a park and nature preserve. It is a popular recreational destination for locals and visitors to Chicago.

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