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Chicago aviation summit called ‘productive’

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Mayor Rahm Emanuel

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Updated: November 15, 2011 10:42AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel met Monday with five executives of the airline industry and said afterward the discussion focused on potential expansion of job training programs.

No new initiatives were announced after the “aviation summit,” a private meeting that included Jeff Smisek, president and chief executive of United Airlines, and Boeing Co. Chairman and CEO Jim McNerney.

A release Emanuel’s office put out after the meeting made no mention of O’Hare Airport’s big-ticket construction plans, some of which the airlines oppose or want delayed. Airlines at O’Hare pay a large portion of the costs through landing fees.

Other participants were David Storch, chairman and chief executive of aviation and defense industry supplier AAR Corp.; Bob Reding, executive vice president of operations for American Airlines; and Ron Ricks, executive vice president at Southwest Airlines.

Boeing spokesman John Dern said among topics discussed was “the right investments in infrastructure” such as in air traffic management to keep O’Hare and Midway ahead of the competition. O’Hare is the hub for United and American and is the only dual-hub airport in North America.

Boeing employs about 500 people in the Chicago area, including about 450 people at its downtown corporate headquarters office and about 50 people at the Gary airport, where it operates its executive jet fleet.

A spokeswoman for Smisek declined to comment on the discussion beyond characterizing it as “productive.” Smisek suggested the meeting.

The parent company of United, United Continental Holdings Inc., in June gave Chicago’s new mayor one of the earliest notches on his political belt. It announced 1,300 new jobs downtown as part of a relocation of its operations center into Willis Tower. City officials said that in 2010, the aviation industry accounted for 31,700 jobs in Chicago.

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