On Monday Angela Gittens gave a presentation on the economic impact of a South Suburban Airport (SSA) to supporters at the “South Suburban Airport Promise” luncheon, organized by the South Suburban Mayors & Managers Association, Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation, the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce, and Ida’s Legacy. The luncheon was held at the Vernard Alsberry Municipal Center in Hazel Crest, IL.
While the state and the city of Chicago have debated the need for another airport in the south suburbs for nearly 30 years, aviation expert Angela Gittens said this is the right time. In her presentation Gittens dispelled much of the disinformation that has been used by the airport’s detractors who say a third airport would waste public money and rich agricultural land, encourage urban sprawl, and cause environmental issues. Distractors also contend there is adequate air cargo capacity at existing Chicago-area airports and building a new one isn’t necessary. A recent inductee into the Aviation Hall of Fame, Gittens believes the heightened awareness of climate change makes this the right time for Illinois to take advantage of the emerging technologies and the area’s existing greenfields.
“The state of Illinois has the opportunity to do on Day One what airports all over the world are trying to do,” says Gittens.
She noted Pittsburgh International Airport recently announced plans to produce sustainable aviation fuel on-site.
In an industry magazine interview, PIA Senior Vice President of Air Service and Commercial Development Bryan Dietz explained, “There is insatiable demand, not enough supply, and we know we have the feedstock. Not transporting the fuel could mean lower sustainable aviation fuel costs,” he said.
Dietz went on to compare this time to the “dissolution of our nation’s steel industry,” which caught many American workers unprepared.
Gittens agreed and noted that the South Suburban Airport’s strategic location and the evolving renewable technology puts it in a unique position to be a model for the rest of the nation.
“It seems to me the forecasts that have been done weren’t specific to an airline. It was talking about market share. That this project would get 2-6% market share of air cargo says you don’t need a specific airline, you need a market and it’s the market that brings the airlines,” explains Gittens.
Currently, Chicago’s Southland has the largest collection of warehouse distribution centers in North America with Amazon fulfillment centers equivalent to 13 million square feet.
Gittens, who lives in Florida, became CEO of the Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport in 1993 and Miami International Airport in 2001. She said “the idea of a potential airport waiting for a specific airline to sign on is an 80-year-old model. More than 75% of Europe’s airports are Public Private Partnerships.”