Fire at Illinois Air Traffic Control Center Shuts Down Chicago

Fire at Illinois Air Traffic Control Center Shuts Down Chicago

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Due to a fire in an Aurora, Illinois air traffic control center, the Chicago airports ended up shut down and delayed traffic worldwide.

According to USA Today, the Federal Aviation Administration shut down Chicago‘s O’Hare and Midway airports after “a fire at an Illinois air traffic control facility” grounded “more than 1,900 flights were grounded nationwide” Friday morning. Shutting down the air traffic control facility managed to create a backlog of passengers as planes couldn’t take off for several hours. As of 2:35 p.m. ET, almost 1,200 flights were canceled, leaving stranded passengers and crews.

At approximately one-third of O’Hare’s daily flights and nearly 70% of Midway’s 450 flights, the impact was felt nationwide. Locally, the Milwaukee airport grounded over 40 percent of the day’s flights and Southwest canceled at all local flights for Friday between Midway and Milwaukee. And Southwest’s cancellations are a very large percentage of Midway as it’s one of the airports for the airline. Meanwhile, O’Hare was recently declared the world’s busiest airport.

However, news is looking up as flights slowly begin arriving and departing but will not begin to catch up until tomorrow morning. And passengers should expected delays missed connections and longer luggage wait. American Airlines tweeted to paper, “We know the team is working hard to sort out baggage issues from the earlier delays.”

American Airlines customer Allan Simmons isn’t happy with the lack of rescheduled flights for a 7-day cruise from Puerto Rico. “Some of our group is being split up and has to fly all the way to Houston first. We have non-refundable hotel reservations for tonight in San Juan that are going to waste.” While Simmons and his fiancée Regina Riddle aren’t finding the delayed trip helpful, passengers have to remember to blame the person responsible–and it’s not the airlines.

All the trouble started when police believe a contracted employee started the fire and was later found “in the basement suffering non-gunshot self-inflicted wounds,” according to Aurora city spokesman Dan Ferrelli.

Thomas Ahern, spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms told the Associated Press that the employee used gasoline as an accelerant and caused some wiring and water damage from the sprinkling systems.Both the FAA and ATF say a 50-year-old male victim suffered smoke inhalation and was later released from the hospital. NBC News reports that 15-30 other employees were “safely evacuated from the center” and the FAA determined that the incident was isolated without any connection to terrorism.

And the Business Insider notes Aurora’s nickname of “Chicago Center” has passed off responsibilities to other regional airports and air traffic control facilities. Aurora covers “Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin” flight patterns and control, so the delays will be felt as flights try and reschedule.

Chicago businesses offered treats to the stranded people, too. Gibsons, an iconic steakhouse, delivered hundreds of slider burgers to those waiting in long lines trying to sort out problems. Excecutive chef Marco DiBenedetto and server Matthew Rine’s arrival offered a moment of kindness and levity.

Or as Rine said, “You got to feel for them.” And anyone who was in Atlanta this winter definitely knows about being stranded on situations outside of personal control.

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