Chicago flight cancelations pass 2,000 after fire

Firefighters respond to the FAA Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora on Friday. (Credit: CBS)

CHICAGO (AP) — Flights were taking off and landing at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports late Friday after the shutdown of a suburban air traffic control facility where authorities say a contract employee started a fire.

However, delays are from 90 minutes to three hours for flights still scheduled for O’Hare International Airport, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Airlines have canceled about 1,550 flights at O’Hare, however, international flights are landing and departing.

More than 470 flights were canceled at Midway International Airport. Southwest Airlines suspended all flight operations Friday. Other airlines continued operations.

A contract employee recently told he was being transferred to Hawaii set a fire at the air traffic control center where he worked, disrupting flight operations nationwide.

Brian Howard, 36, of Naperville, Illinois, was charged in U.S. District Court with one count of destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities, a felony offense.

The FBI said Friday that Howard remains hospitalized due to injuries suffered while allegedly committing the offense. No court date for Howard has been scheduled.

Howard worked for the FAA contractor that supplies and maintains communications systems at air traffic facilities, said Jessica Cigich, a spokeswoman for Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, the union that represents FAA technicians.

The FAA has told workers at the air traffic control center not to report for work overnight as investigators continue to assess the damage done to the facility.

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