Chicago airports undergo massive cancellations after FAA facility fire

Posted on Oct 15, 2014

After a fire in one of the nation's Federal Aviation Administration facilities in Aurora, Illinois, Chicago travel was brought to a standstill on Sept. 26 with nearly all 1,750 outbound flights canceled at both Midway and O'Hare International airports, USA Today reported.

The FAA is still recovering after the fire at one of its facilities that caused hundreds of canceled flights

The cancellation madness lasted through the weekend and even on Sept. 29, there were still 480 flights canceled as of 12:45 p.m. at O'Hare, which still accounts for roughly 15 percent of all trips, FlightAware, a flight-tracking service reported. There have been more than 3,750 flights canceled since Sept. 26 when the fire first happened, having been set from a reportedly disgruntled employee.

"The domino effect of cancellations on Friday was significant, but less so over the weekend and today," said Daniel Baker, CEO of FlightAware, according to USA Today. "[The] airlines were more prepared for problems and preemptively canceled Chicago operations to reduce the impact on the rest of their operations."

Chicago still impacted through the weekend

Baker added that 90 percent of the nationwide cancellations are flights to or from Chicago, the source reported. O'Hare is currently the second-busiest airport in the U.S., behind Hartfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, and the Chicago major airport was only running at 60 percent of its normal volume on Sept. 28, the New York Daily News reported.

The facility is the nation's most centrally located FAA building, and after the fire, the FAA Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center was scrambling to get back to normal and the majority of the rest of U.S. airports were affected as well, the source reported.

One of the biggest incidents in air traffic control since 9/11

Paul Rinaldi, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association explained the FAA facility fire incident was the most difficult situation for air traffic controllers since 9/11 "when all commercial flights were grounded," the New York Daily News reported.

"The damage to this critical facility is unlike anything we have seen before," Rinaldi told the source. "Since the first moment when radar scopes went dark at Chicago Center Friday morning, controllers have ensured the highest level of safety at all times."

The FAA said it would still take roughly two weeks to get the Chicago-based control center back and fully functional again, FOX affiliate WFLD reported. As of now, FAA crews and technicians are working around the clock to install new equipment in the facility.

Business travelers heavily affected

The agency also expects for the majority of flights leaving or coming into either Midway or O'Hare to be back to normal on Sept. 30, WFLD reported. Alex Hud, a business traveler trying to leave Chicago, explained that he tried to get an early start by leaving at night on Sept. 28.

"I'm from Chicago and I'm going to San Diego for business to meet some clients out there and I just emailed them actually saying I don't know when I'm going to be there, so hopefully today," Hud told WFLD.

With the numerous flights being canceled in one of the nation's busiest airports, businesses can mitigate risk by sending critical information to their business travelers. NC4 Risk Center provides organizations and their security centers with up-to-date information on any travel restrictions that could affect business operations or put corporate travelers at risk.

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