After a disgruntled contract employee set fire to equipment at Chicago Center on September 26, hardworking employees have been going around the clock to return operations to normal. By October 1, operations at O’Hare were the highest in the country and operating at about 91% of average traffic levels. Chicago Midway operations were up to 85% of average levels.
The Federal Aviation Administration has set a goal to have the equipment replaced or repaired by October 13. The damage was localized to the basement of the Aurora facility, where the facility’s telecommunications was housed. The employee responsible, Brian Howard of Harris Corporation, was fired from his job, and appeared in court on Monday, the 29th. The United States District Court ordered that Howard be held without bail.
Harris Corporation and the FAA have yet to publicly announce who will be responsible for the cost of the damage, which extends far beyond the physical damage at the facility. Airlines and passengers alike were inconvenienced as flights canceled and rerouted for days while surrounding air traffic control facilities scrambled to safely restore traffic levels.
Meanwhile, the FAA as well as Administrator Michael Huerta are struggling to explain to the public why one center’s incident affected traffic nationally to the extent that the Aurora fire has. While he noted that the controllers implemented a method that kept the entire air traffic system safe, it did so at the cost of volume.
The aviation accident attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten are following this story closely, and will update you as changes occur.