Coming Soon, O’Hare Planespotting…And Some Railroad Stuff

I haven’t had time to blog the past few days, but will do so shortly about my planespotting trip to Chicago-O’Hare International Airport last Saturday, and probably some railroad-related stuff.

In the meantime, you can use this blog post to ask questions or suggest some future subject matter.

Thanks for coming here.

– David P. Jordan

Peoria Int’l Airport in the News

I thought I’d comment on a couple of articles on the local airport that have appeared in the Journal Star in the last couple of days. The most recent* was posted last night. The airport received $2 million in federal funds toward construction of a new terminal building. Total cost of the new terminal is expected to exceed $64 million by the time it is completed in fall 2010.

(Unfortunately, a historical error creeped into the article:

The current terminal building is now nearly 60 years old.

The current terminal building opened in May 1959. Do the math. Maybe the writer meant “50,” or gremlins sat at his PC before the article was posted 😛 )

Another article* posted Tuesday mentions the results of a noise study, the first since 1990. The study concludes the airport is quieter now than in 1990, which should come as no surprise given the older aircraft types serving the airport then.

Back then, TWA ran three daily roundtrips between Peoria and its St. Louis hub with 1960’s or 1970s-vintage DC-9’s (inherited from its purchase of Ozark Air Lines four years earlier). Also United Air Lines used Boeing 737’s on its two daily roundtrips to Denver. All other flights were operated with turboprops.

Other old, noisy jets visited the local airport such as Airborne Express DC-9’s from Wilmington, Ohio; Emery Worldwide DC-8’s which stopped here enroute between Dayton, Ohio and a western city and Federal Express 727’s, which still visited Peoria regularly five mornings and evenings a week. FedEx linked Peoria with its hubs in Indianapolis and Memphis.

Business jets were frequent visitors then as they are today.

Today, Allegiant Air MD-80’s visit most days and mostly 50-seat regional jets make numerous daily appearances. FedEx still uses 727’s and United Parcel Service brings in a 757 on weeknights enroute to Louisville.

*Links to articles referenced above no longer available

-David P. Jordan

Peoria International Airport?

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General Wayne A. Downing – Peoria International Airport.

I like that name because it kinda one-ups Bloomington-Normal’s Central Illinois Regional Airport. It had to happen sooner or later. The now- “Greater Peoria Regional Airport” has an onsite U. S. Customs broker, which is located at the air cargo facility on Smithville Road. Thus, it is recognized as a Port of Entry and qualifies for “international” status.

Even though the Greater Peoria Regional Airport has no regularly scheduled international flights, it does handle some from business aviation users (Caterpillar) and has in the past handled international charter cargo and passenger flights. I recall now-defuct American Trans Air offering nonstop charters to places such as London, England and Nassau, Bahamas in 1986-1989 with widebody Lockheed L-1011’s. Shipments of Caterpillar machinery to Russia in Volga-Dnepr AN-124’s during the 1990’s had to clear customs.

Other downstate Illinois communities with international airports are the Quad Cities and Rockford. The latter has some “scheduled charters” to Cancun during the winter months (which this season will be offered by a foreign airline – Aeromexico!) and a separate building to process international arrivals. It’s called “Chicago Rockford International Airport.” The city nearly gained nonstop scheduled charters on Boeing 757’s to Ireland this year. Something may eventually happen in this regard, but fuel prices must first moderate.

The Quad City International Airport handles nearly 1 million passengers annually but does not have any regularly scheduled international flights. Still, the facility has a U. S. Customs offices on site, which qualifies it as a port of entry.

Other mid-sized midwestern cities with “international” airports include: Fort Wayne International Airport (Indiana), Des Moines International Airport (Iowa), Duluth International Airport (Minnesota), Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport (Michigan) and Austin Straubel International Airport (Green Bay, Wisconsin).

Perhaps the “international” title gives a commercial airline facility prestige that it wouldn’t normally have, though the name isn’t as important as the services offered. Despite airline industry woes, boardings are up and it appears PIA has a great future.

The renaming will become official on October 10.

– David P. Jordan

Journal Star gets wind of UP branchline abandonment

NOTE: Thanks to the Wayback Machine, I’ve restored one of my early blog posts, dated September 23, 2008. I will keep it in front for a day or two. After that, click September 2008 at right to find it.

Three months after Union Pacific’s petition to abandon a nearly 25-mile branchline between Peoria and Middle Grove, the Journal Star reports it. And when you read their on-line article, you get the sense that staff has learned nothing from the earlier rail vs. trail debate involving the Kellar Branch, i. e. bias and misinformation.

Union Pacific filed for formal abandonment of this line in July. Subsequently, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources filed for “interim trail use” and then two railroads, Keokuk Junction Railway and V & S Railway, each gave a notice of intent to file an Offer of Financial Assistance (or “OFA” – a technical term for offering to purchase and operate the line).

The bias begins with the title, Railway line considered for new trail, then magnifies it with this:

Two other railroads also indicated interest in the property. V & S Railway Inc. has since backed out, but Keokuk Junction Railway Co. has not.

V & S Railway is affiliated with a track salvaging firm called A & K Railroad Materials. Interestingly, it also gave notices of intent to file OFA’s for two Kansas branchlines also sought for abandonment by UP. One can only speculate about their reasons for withdrawing their petition regarding the Peoria – Middle Grove line, but it is likely due to: (1) realizing that the line had no active customers, and (2), that the Keokuk Junction Railway, with which they did battle in the past, is involved.

What the JS writer doesn’t realize is that the Keokuk Junction Railway won’t “back down” because they are serious about acquiring the track in question.

The article also contains misinformation when it states:

The STB will consider the competing priorities for the land on Oct. 2.

Compare this to the Board’s August 21 Decision:

The requests for issuance of a notice of interim trail use and a public use condition are held in abeyance pending completion of the OFA process.

The Keokuk Junction Railway’s formal OFA has yet to be posted; the process hasn’t even started.

Facts and logic 1, Journal Star 0.

Unfortunately for trail proponents, some of the issues in this case are different than those involving the Kellar Branch. First, a railroad, not a municipality, owns the track in question. Thus, no government entity has a serious shot at influencing the outcome by filing for adverse abandonment. Second, the Keokuk Junction’s initial filing suggests Union Pacific is cooperating. That being the case, the line’s future will probably rest on the sale price and how much the shortline is willing to pay.

This old UP line could well end up being a recreational trail, but it’s important the news media gets the facts right and avoids bias when reporting on this process. One Journal Star writer proves she can do neither.

– David P. Jordan