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Sep 26, 2014 8:57 AM

Fire at control site stops O'Hare, Midway flights

The Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) A fire at a suburban Chicago air traffic control facility Friday morning halted all flights in and out of the city's two airports, threatening to send delays and cancelations rippling around the nation's air travel network.

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.

The fire led to the evacuation of the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said.

One injury was reported, Cory said, without providing details. Management of the region's air space was transferred to other facilities, but it was unclear how long the stoppage would last.

By about 7:30 a.m., more than 200 flights to and from O'Hare, a major hub for the nation's air traffic, were canceled, according to the aviation tracker FlightAware.com. Midway had about 20 cancelations.

Southwest Airlines suspended all flights at Midway until noon, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

There was no word on what caused the fire in Aurora. A spokesman for the city's fire department did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment.

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.


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