Chicago air traffic control facility fire grounds 850 flights

Added by on September 26, 2014

A fire at at a Chicago area air traffic control falility caused hundreds of cancellations on Friday.

A fire at a Chicago area air traffic control facility caused hundreds of cancellations on Friday. Photo: Patricia Santos

A fire on Friday in the basement of an air traffic control facility that services Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports stopped all flights in and out of both airports, resulting 850 local flight cancellations. The cancellations are likely to cause a ripple effect through North America and internationally as flights get rerouted or canceled.

The fire occurred at an air traffic control facility, staffed by 20 controllers, which manages 3 million flight operations per year and houses the United States’ most sophisticated airport radar equipment.

The fire, reportedly in a basement bathroom, was quickly brought under control by firefighters who responded to an alarm at about 05:45 local time (10:45 GMT/UTC). All controllers at the facility were evacuated.

Firefighters found a man with a self-inflicted wound – it was not clear whether the man had anything to do with the fire. The man was taken to hospital and is being treated; details about the man’s injuries were not released according to a statement released by Chicago’s Department of Aviation.

The affected air traffic control facility manages en-route air traffic flying at high altitudes, including flights that are approaching or have departed Chicago’s airports. Control towers located onsite handle flights closer to the airports.

Earlier this year, in May, an electrical problem at a radar site caused the insulation on some wires near a bathroom exhaust fan and sent smoke throughout the facility. The electrical problem canceled more than 1,100 flights.