Chicago Airports Still Delaying Flights Due To Fire, Suicide Attempt

Chicago Airports

Flights going through Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway Airports are still suffering from a fire and attempted suicide yesterday.

USA Today is reporting a Federal Aviation Administration clean-up crew is still finishing cleaning up water-damaged equipment at an Illinois air traffic control enter that was shut down after a fire and attempted suicide there Friday.

More than 1,000 flights had been canceled nationwide as of 2:10 p.m. ET Saturday due to disruptions resulting from the fire.

FAA handled 40 percent of normal daily traffic at O’Hare on Friday but “expects to continue to increase the traffic flow at those two airports over the weekend,” the agency said in a release Saturday.

Like Friday, Chicago’s busy O’Hare and Midway airports were among the hardest hit, though delays and cancellations were affecting numerous airports across the Midwest.

At least 650 flights have been cancelled and 500 delayed at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, while 155 flights have been cancelled at Midway airport with another 125 delayed.

The reason for the delays and cancellations is an employee attempted to sabotage air traffic equipment at a large air control facility in Aurora, IL.

International Business Times reports the suspect, Brian Howard, 36, a contract employee working in “telecommunications matters,” is charged with one count of destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities. Howard allegedly exposed cables and wires before starting the fire. When paramedics arrived on the scene, he was attempting to take his own life. He remains hospitalized following the blaze.

Southwest Airlines, Midway’s biggest carrier, had originally thought they would return to normal operations Saturday morning, but later felt issues were still hampering their operations in both Chicago and Milwaukee.

“In close coordination with Air Traffic Control, our dispatchers report airspace restrictions will continue throughout the day and additional delays and cancellations today could continue as we work hard together to operate as many scheduled flights as allowed,” the carrier said in a Saturday morning statement.

The fire cost the midwest airports plenty. O’Hare cancelled 1,300 flights overall, which is roughly half their daily schedule. Midway cancelled 450 flights, roughly two-thirds of their daily total. Overall, about 2,300 flights were cancelled Friday.

FAA sent air traffic controllers who would normally have worked at the Aurora air traffic control center to the Chicago Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) in Elgin, IL and other air traffic facilities to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic.

The agency said it was managing the air traffic flows in and out of Chicago through other large facilities in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin with additional help from high-altitude centers in Minnesota, Kansas, Indiana and Ohio.

FAA sent air traffic controllers who would normally have worked at the Aurora air traffic control center to the Chicago Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) in Elgin, IL and other air traffic facilities to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic.

The agency said it was managing the air traffic flows in and out of Chicago through other large facilities in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin with additional help from high-altitude centers in Minnesota, Kansas, Indiana and Ohio.

[Image courtesy of WRAL]