Area residents make noise over airline's sale, fumes

Aug. 23, 2007

James Baker, who lives in the 4600 block of South Quincy Avenue in Milwaukee, just south of Bay View, has long been an activist for the rights of neighbors who live near General Mitchell International Airport, particularly those who say they are living with excessive noise from jet engines.

Baker, a founder of the Airport Neighbors Association, is now making noise on a few other airport-related topics.

When the Midwest Airlines board of directors accepted an offer from the private equity firm TPG Capital last week, Baker began to worry.

TPG Capital's $17-a-share offer for Midwest Airlines is backed by a minority investment from Northwest Airlines Corp. In accepting the offer from the Texas-based firm, Midwest headed off a take-over bid from AirTran Holdings Inc., which was offering $16.27 a share.

The deal with TPG Capital will allow Midwest Airlines to continue as an independent carrier, maintaining its branding position in the market as a high-end carrier.

"Personally, I think AirTran would be better for the community," Baker said. "They say they want to build a hub here."

He said AirTran would have represented "new blood" and speculates the firm may have tried to reach out to airport neighbors and address their concerns.

Baker said he believes Northwest Airlines will try to take over Midwest Airlines four or five years down the road.

Referring to TPG Capital, Baker said, "They're investors. What do investors do? They buy and sell."

However, Baker said, he does not think a Northwest Airlines takeover or merger with Midwest Airlines would pass muster with the Federal Trade Commission.

In the meantime, Baker and some of his neighbors are trying to convince airport and elected officials to do something about what they say are oppressive odors coming from the fixed base operator portion of the airport, where charter planes are parked, with engines sometimes idling for up to 30 minutes.

"All we get is jet fumes in our neighborhood and we think it's unhealthy," Baker said. "It's a quality-of-life issue."

He said a number of neighbors recently signed a petition asking the Department of Neighborhood Services to address the issue. Copies will be sent to the mayor and Common Council, Baker said.

- Nan Bialek,

Staff Writer

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