The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, has said it is preparing to reopen Chicago's air traffic control center Monday. The FAA said that it has completed testing all systems and equipment at the suburban facility, which was allegedly set on fire by a contract worker in late September, leading to the cancellation of thousands of flights in the following weeks.
Elizabeth Cory, an FAA spokeswoman, said Sunday that renovation work was on schedule for the air traffic control facility to be in operation overnight, after a two-week shutdown, the Associated Press reported. The disruption reportedly forced authorities to cancel more than 5,000 flights at Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports during the first week after the fire.
“The FAA has successfully tested and restored all of the critical systems and equipment at the Chicago En Route Center in Aurora, IL and is moving forward with the planned transition to full operations at the facility tonight,” the FAA said in a statement. “Overnight, the FAA will gradually transition flight plan information, communications and airspace back to Chicago Center. The FAA is working closely with domestic and international airlines to make sure they have all the necessary information to ensure a smooth transition.”
The FAA also said that O'Hare airport remained the country’s busiest airport for seven days straight on Sunday, handling 103 percent of its average traffic, despite hurdles. Meanwhile, Midway was handling 90 percent of its average traffic.
“The FAA continues to monitor deteriorating weather conditions forecast for the Chicago area and is working with all the airspace users to manage air traffic as safely and efficiently as possible,” the agency said in the statement.
Brian Howard, 36, of Naperville, Illinois, was accused of setting the Chicago facility on fire on Sept. 26. Howard allegedly exposed cables and wires before starting the fire, and when paramedics arrived on the scene, he was attempting to take his own life.