MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — South Florida flights heading to and from the Chicago area were cancelled on Friday morning after a fire broke out at at a suburban Chicago air traffic control facility.
A contract employee set a fire at the suburban Chicago air traffic control center where he worked, bringing two of the nation’s busiest airports to a halt Friday, according to a criminal complaint.READ MORE: Hundreds Of Motorcycle Riders Ride From Doral To Key Largo For Good Causes
The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago charges Brian Howard, 36, of Naperville, Illinois, with one count of destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities, a felony. The FBI said Howard remains hospitalized due to his injuries and that no court date for him has been scheduled.
Delays and cancellations rippled through the air travel network from coast to coast after the fire. The ground stoppage at O’Hare and Midway airports immediately raised questions about whether the Federal Aviation Administration has adequate backup plans to keep planes moving when a single facility has to shut down.
By late afternoon, about 1,950 flights in and out of Chicago had been canceled. A few flights resumed around midday, after a nearly five-hour gap. The planes were moving at a much-reduced pace, officials said, and no one could be sure when full service would be restored.
By late afternoon, some flights at MIA had resumed but apparently were running behind. CBS4 spoke with one passenger before she boarded her flight, who was hopeful she’d be able to make it home to Chicago. “Right now I’m very optimistic,” said Jacqueline Camacho. “I don’t know if I’m going to be stuck once I make it through security but right now I’m very positive, very optimistic.”
American Airlines spokeswoman Leslie Scott told CBS4 that even though the Federal Aviation Administration has lifted its ground stop of flights to and from Chicago, to expect more cancelations.
Before heading to the airport, officials recommend you check with your airline to find out if your flight is on time.
CBS4’s Oralia Ortega spoke with a few people who were upset about the delays.
One man in particular said what’s frustrating is that according to the app on his phone, his flight was on time and he came to the airport only to find out otherwise.READ MORE: COVID In Florida: 2,482 New Cases, 22 Additional Deaths Reported Sunday
“You’d think United would update their app. I looked at the app and the flight status said that it’s still going so I’m coming in and realized that it’s cancelled,” said Sat Vinder whose flight was cancelled.
At Miami International Airport, spokesman Marc Henderson said 10 flights were canceled. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport reported four flight cancellations.
The fire started in the basement of the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago, city of Aurora spokesman Dan Ferrelli said in an emailed statement.
The center was evacuated, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said, and management of the region’s air space was transferred to other facilities. Authorities said it was unclear how long the stoppage would last.
An employee of the facility was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and the fire was extinguished by 7 a.m., according to Ferrelli’s email.
It was the second time since May that a problem at one of the Chicago area’s major control facilities prompted a ground stop at O’Hare and Midway international airports.
In May, an electrical problem forced the evacuation of a regional radar facility in suburban Elgin. A bathroom exhaust fan overheated and melted insulation on some wires, sending smoke through the facility’s ventilation system and into the control room.
That site was evacuated for three hours, and more than 1,100 flights were canceled.
The Aurora facility is known as an en-route center, and handles aircraft flying at high altitudes, including those on approach or leaving Chicago’s airports. Air traffic closer to the airports is handled by a different facility and by the control towers located at the airfields.
A computer glitch at a similar facility on the West Coast in April forced a 45-minute shutdown at Los Angeles International Airport.MORE NEWS: Lauderhill PD Needs Help Locating 72-Year-Old Levan McKenzie
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