CHICAGO—The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has approved the city’s preliminary application to a pilot program to investigate the privatization/lease of Midway Airport.

The approval allows the city to move forward with issuing a request for qualifications (RFQ) for potential interested bidders in Midway Airport and test market interest, conditions and revenue generation possibilities for the potential lease of Midway. The city is contemplating a lease of the airport, the air travel option for Chicago after O’Hare International Airport, for fewer than 40 years. The proceeds will be used to pay off debt, and the city will retain ownership and receive a percentage fee that will grow over time. Bids are due Feb. 22.

“Our responsibility is to the taxpayers of Chicago and the first step is to gain a complete understanding of the revenue and market opportunities available to us,” said Lois Scott, CFO for the city. “We must evaluate fully if this could be a win for Chicagoans and ensure that certain conditions and criteria are met, including a direct benefit to taxpayers and a Travelers' Bill of Rights. The city’s process and approach will be thorough and open, in stark contrast to the lease deals of the past.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has named a Midway Advisory Panel comprised of representatives from the City Council along with business, labor and civic leaders. The Panel will select an independent financial advisor to review all aspects of the transaction, including the competitive procurement process, key terms of the transaction, impact on labor and traveling public, and valuation. The Panel will deliver a written report prior to Council consideration and to present their report to the public.