Federal source: Disgruntled employee behind fire grounding flights around the nation

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CHICAGO (Sept. 26 ,2014) – A fire at an FAA radar facility has grounded all flights in and out of Chicago airports.

Both O’Hare and Midway airports are affected by the problem. According to WGN, the entire facility in Aurora has been evacuated because of the fire, which started in the basement around 6 a.m. Chicago time.

More than a thousand flights have been canceled at both airports with hundreds being delayed. Limited flights were coming in and out “at a reduced rate” by early Friday afternoon, according to the FAA.

The fire has been extinguished, according to WGN. A man was found with what police described as “self-inflicted” wounds and taken to an Aurora hospital. The fire was started by a contract worker, but investigators said it was not an act of terrorism. Up to 30 employees were evacuated. One of them was treated for smoke inhalation.

An ATF source told WGN that the disgruntled employee was angry over a transfer to Hawaii. The “self-inflicted wounds” may have been cuts the man suffered while trying to cut wires at the facility.

The issue is causing significant flight delays and a “ground stop” is in effect. Some flights have been rerouted to Indianapolis International Airport as a result. According to a spokesman for the Indianapolis International Airport, there were multiple cancellations and delays for flights coming to and from the airport.

Doug Church, director of communications for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said the problems at Chicago Center are affecting Indianapolis Center (also known as ZID):

They have called in a few people on OT. Traffic Management Unit has worked on putting together inbound routes for the Chicago area. There is a plan still being developed for departures, but it hasn’t been implemented as yet. Controllers at ZID are seeing increased traffic along our normal east-west corridors with traffic from/to the East Coast, which is necessitating extra positions to be opened. There have been a few General Aviation aircraft trickle out of the Chicago area departing VFR and picking up their clearances with ZID.

Right now, ZID controllers’ biggest problem getting anything into or out of the Chicago area is that there is no way for the approach control facilities underlying Chicago Center (ZAU) to transmit flight plan info to our computer. Normally that transfer would be accomplished via ZAU’s system, but with it out of commission, the electronic transfer cannot occur. They have had to revert to entering flight plan information on those aircraft into ZID’s system by hand, which is a bit cumbersome and time consuming, but they’re getting the job done.

Southwest Airlines said it will suspend all flights out of Midway until 7 p.m. Chicago time. According to the FAA’s website, planes departing from anywhere in the U.S. that are destined to travel through the Aurora facility will not be allowed to depart until at or after 10 a.m. Chicago time.

Source: WGN