Literally hundreds of Chicago flights were cancelled and thousands of travelers across the country disrupted because of a fire in a major Illinois air traffic control center. According to authorities, the mystery deepened when along with the fire at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) control center there was a man found with self-inflicted wounds at the same center.
After receiving calls about the fire, first responders rushed to the scene. Once there, they quickly discovered a man with severe cuts to at least one wrist, this according to Chicago law enforcement officials. Investigators also stated that it appears as if the individual had tried to commit suicide and that the fire was intentionally set. Although it has not been confirmed, officials believe the wounded man was responsible for the fire.
Aurora Illinois Police Chief, Greg Thomas, told reporters that he does not believe the fire was an act of terrorism but instead, something that was intentionally set by a contract employee. He also stated that in addition to the man who had cut his wrist, another man, age 50, was also injured and treated at the scene of the fire for smoke inhalation.
Because of the fire, flights coming into and going out of Chicago’s O’Hare International, as well as Midway airports, were cancelled with the control center staying closed until about 6:00 this morning. This closure had a huge impact on hundreds of flights because not only were incoming and outgoing planes affected but also those flying long-distance routes to various regions. Combined, this raises the potential for literally of flight delays throughout the country.
Airplanes flying into Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports will be banned from departing until at least 10:00 a.m. EST as indicated on the FAA’s website. Specific to flights scheduled to leave O’Hare International Airport, more than 360 were cancelled and approximately 79 from Midway.
Cancelling such a large number of flights out of O’Hare, one of the busiest airports in the world, there could ultimately be a nasty ripple effect. Spokesperson for American Airlines, Leslie Scott, said that any flights bound for Chicago still on the ground in the originating city are still in a holding pattern and that anything in the air could be diverted. She also said that any planes on the ground in Chicago will remain there until further notice.
Details pertaining to the fire have not yet been provided although Dan Ferrelli, spokesman for the city of Aurora, confirmed to reporters that in addition to the fire in the basement of the control center, there was a man who apparently had tried to commit suicide and one man injured from smoke inhalation. FAA spokeswoman, Elizabeth Isham Cory advised that everyone at the control center in Aurora, Illinois was evacuated.
Today’s fire comes just four months after smoke was reported at an FAA radar facility in Elgin, Illinois. In that case, about 600 flights were cancelled for both O’Hare and Midway airports. However, with more than 1,000 flights coming into and going out of O’Hare daily, officials are working hard to resolve the problem and get travelers back in the air as quickly as possible.