FAA chief to tour damaged Aurora air traffic center

  • An arson fire at an Aurora air traffic control center disrupted flights all across the country Sept. 26.

      An arson fire at an Aurora air traffic control center disrupted flights all across the country Sept. 26. Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

Updated 10/3/2014 8:20 AM

Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta will take a firsthand look at the sabotage at an Aurora air traffic control center Friday.

Cancellations and delays at O'Hare and Midway International Airports have plagued travelers since Sept. 26 when vital radar and communications feeds were cut at the Chicago Center facility in Aurora. Authorities say a contract employee, 36-year-old Naperville resident Brian Howard, set a fire in the basement of the facility as part of a suicide attempt.


Huerta estimates the center will be back in business Oct. 13.

The crime and the ease with which the destruction was carried out have put Huerta in the hot seat. Several lawmakers have asked why the agency doesn't have a better contingency plan.

"I'm concerned that one week following the attack on the computer network, the nation's busiest air hub is still facing significant delays and cancellations," U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said in a statement. "We need to get the system back up and running and then take a hard look at the weaknesses in the system that failed to prevent this incident. Not only was air traffic severely disrupted, but the safety of workers at Chicago area facilities and passengers flying to and from Chicago was jeopardized."

Huerta promised a review of security measures and emergency planning in a Monday speech.

"Over the next 30 days, (the agency) will take a look at our plans to make sure we are prepared to both assure the safety of aircraft but also the efficiency of the system," Huerta said.

Howard appeared in federal court Monday and is charged with destruction of aircraft facilities.

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