Meigs Field – Preserved in Google Earth

Meigs Field in Google EarthMeigs Field was a wonderful little airport near downtown Chicago – beloved to millions of Microsoft Flight Simulator users since it had been the default airport since the program was first released in the early-80s. Most aviators are quite familiar with the scandalous actions by Mayor Daley of Chicago who had long wanted to close this wonderful little airport. Starting in 1995, Mayor Daley had tried to arrange closing the airport so he could put a park in its place. In 2003, when it was apparent he was in for a long legal battle over the rights to close it, he hired a demolition crew to bulldoze the runway in the middle of the night – stranding 16 planes (which were later allowed to depart via the taxiway). The Mayor was breaking the law when he did this, but he managed to get away with only a minor penalty fee, and the city had to repay $1 Million of FAA money it improperly used to demolish the airport.
Fortunately, you can still see the airport in operation inside Google Earth and Google Maps. Not only that, you can see it in Microsoft’s Virtual Earth (or Live Local), and in Microsoft’s Flight Simulator. I’m hoping Microsoft and Google will continue to show the runway even though it has now been turned into a park. At least we can keep Mayor Daley from the satisfaction of seeing his new park in these popular applications. Ask.com’s aerial map unfortunately shows the new park. Read more about Meigs at Wikipedia (which recounts the actions by Daley in more detail). Also, check out the Friends of Meigs Field web site – they are still trying to get the field turned back into an airport.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was released. He worked in 3D graphics for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank left in 2009 to circumnavigate the earth by sailboat as part of the Tahina Expedition.



Comments

  1. Aw, I remember Meigs Field quite well from my flight simulator days — I could probably fly the hop from Meigs to O’Hare in my sleep.
    Although I think that in general GE should strive to be as timely and up-to-date as possible, the sentimental part of me is happy to see the field preserved in this small way.

  2. For a blast from the past, check out
    http://fshistory.simflight.com/fsh/versions.htm
    to see the primitive skeleton of the Chicago skyline in the earliest versions of MS Flight Sim. Looking at the beautifully-textured Chicago skyline in Google Earth today is an awesome reminder of how far we’ve come.

  3. You really make this whole Daley “scandal” sound a lot worse than it really was. Many of the reasons for closing the airport was fair, and the only citation handed over to the city concerned a failure to notify the federal agency of the plans within a thirty day time period as required by law (giving them a $33.000 fine).
    And just because an airport has been the default one forever in MS FlightSim doesn’t give it the right to stay there forever. Times change!

  4. Meigs was destroyed in March, 2003. Four years later, and there is not much to report- there is a bike path that circles the perimeter of the peninsula, and in the summer there is a temporary concert venue next to the Adler. This venue was created (also in secrecy) to hush the critics, of whom there are many. That venue could easily sell as many tickets if the same musicians played at the Petrillo Band Shell. The shame of it is that Meigs users spent $500 Million annualy in the City of Chicago. At the mayor’s nearly 10% tax rate, Chicago (not the taxpayers) could have used this revenue to pay for the Olympics, move the volleyball games to North Ave Beach, and move the bicycle velodrome to almost anywhere in the City- the Midway from the Worlds Fair comes to mind. But there is a way to let the Mayor have his cake and eat it too… most new airports across the globe are built on landfill, and they are also located close to city hubs. It may be time to focus on a new downtown airport, off the Lake, close to the business community, convenient for Olympian’s travel, complete with CFD hi-rise rescue squad, as well as an active Coast Guard station to better protect our great City…we deserve it!

  5. Daniel Denk says:

    Although it’s unfortunate that Meigs must be missed, being from the Chicago area I can safely suggest that safety itself was a primary concern for its closing. If anyone had ever visited the Adler Planetarium when Meigs was in full operation, they’d probably have wondered as the planes would fly in whether or not any accidents had occured on pedestrians, or whether the noise polution itself was any concern to the parks district.
    Of course there were politics involved, but the reasons that those politics existed were also primarily because those who utilized the field were dominantly wealthy folks, which didn’t seem to fit within the greater good of the City’s objectives for its citizens and tourists.
    After September 11th, as well, one must realize the idea that security had become a major concern in and around the City of Chicago. Meigs did not appear to fit within the general landscape of safety in this regard, despite a number of opposing views.

  6. “After September 11th, as well, one must realize the idea that security had become a major concern in and around the City of Chicago. Meigs did not appear to fit within the general landscape of safety in this regard, despite a number of opposing views.”
    Safety, unlikely the city is less safe with Meigs field no longer in operation, Meigs field controlled air space within a half a mile of the airport, now there is no ATC Tower controlling that air space and it reverts what amounts to uncontrolled air space.

  7. The “preservation” of meigs field highlights a major shortcoming in the google earth aerial photography. Its late 2007 and we are still looking at aerial photogrophy of the downtown center of the 3rd largest city in America from 2002. Yes the entire downtown area of Chicago, including the still operational meigs field, are from the summer of 2002. In my mind this is pathetic coming from the leader of commercial aerial photography, it has been more than 5 years since they updated downtown Chicago. There have been countless changes in urban landscape and infrastructure (including the meigs site) that aren’t reflected in google earth’s imagery of Chicago. Big thumbs down to google earth on this one.

  8. Steve Ferguson says:

    Quoting Josh: “If anyone had ever visited the Adler Planetarium when Meigs was in full operation, they’d probably have wondered as the planes would fly in whether or not any accidents had occured on pedestrians, or whether the noise pollution itself was any concern to the parks district.”
    Well Josh, you are in luck because the FAA keeps very good records of aviation incidents. As you can see from this query against the NTSB accident database, there have been 3 fatal accidents at Meigs Field between 1962 and the present. All 3 incidents were fatal to only passengers in the aircraft. There have been no civilian injuries at Meigs field in the last 50 years. Maybe you should try investigating the facts before voicing your unfounded fears. BTW, the records stop at 1962 because that is all the NTSB has online. It is not an indication of any event prior to that date.
    NTSB Query – All fatal accidents at Meigs Field, Chicago from 1962 to present:
    11/11/1999 CHICAGO, IL Beech 200 N869 Fatal(3) Part 91: General Aviation
    8/1/1998 CHICAGO, IL Cessna 340A N5340F Fatal(1) Part 91: General Aviation
    7/19/1997 CHICAGO, IL Cessna 172P N5323K Fatal(7) Part 91: General Aviation

  9. Steve, it’s been years since I’ve looked at this post. It seems it was me who made the comments based on observations of arguments being made here in the Chicago area around that time, whether they were considered rational or not. I’m sorry if adding those observations to the discussion here led to an opposing element of sarcasm on your part. I’m sure all factors were taken into consideration, however, I do understand that around that time Chicago was also making changes to the city in an effort to win the Olympic bid. Perhaps that was a factor as well, I do not know.
    “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.” –Plato
    You are also in luck because, now that Mayor Daley has decided to retire, arguments toward the reopening of Meigs have begun. Perhaps become involved in that discussion and make your voice heard if you have any great interest in whether Meigs should be rebuilt.
    Here is a link to an article concerning the reopening of Meigs: http://goo.gl/vDA1c

  10. Mary Frank Cogbill says:

    I have to say after reading this blog I am left with a bit of a mystery. During the early 60′s an old classmate and US Airforce friend of my father’s flew in and out of Meigs Field on a regular basis. He piloted one of the largest if not the largest transport planes ever to take off from that field. I have home movies of my parents being taxied around the Meig Field runway in that plane. A few short years later this same plane crashed into Lake Michigan having failed to gain enough speed and altitude taking off. The pilots name was Harris Pinch. Can anyone fill tell me more about this incident. It would have happened in the late 60′s or in the 70′s.

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