U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration, early this morning, successfully restored full air traffic operations at the Chicago En Route Center in Aurora, IL, which suffered significant damage from a September 26 fire that was deliberately set. During the outage, the agency also successfully maintained high traffic volumes to and from Midway and O'Hare, the busiest airport in the world. FAA technical teams restored all of the critical systems and equipment at the center last night, and air traffic controllers resumed control of the center's airspace from adjoining centers between midnight and 1 a.m.
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. FAA technical teams who traveled to Aurora from all over the country to assist with the restoration effort will remain on-site until tomorrow to monitor system performance and ensure a smooth transition.
"The men and women of the FAA turned an attack on our air traffic system into an unparalleled display of team work, creativity and resolve. They got the system going again and continued to safely manage our skies despite such a significant disruption," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "We appreciate the enduring patience of all travelers who were inconvenienced when Chicago Center was disabled. I'm proud of the team effort to quickly restore the system to near-normal capacity. The Department and the FAA are committed to learning from this event and plan to release a review of this incident."
The agency is conducting a 30-day review of contingency plans and security protocols for its major facilities as a result of this event.
"I am extremely proud of all the FAA employees who have worked tirelessly over the past two weeks to return this important facility to full operation so quickly," said FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta. "I'm equally proud of the employees who immediately pitched in and worked together to smoothly manage the huge volume of flights that travel through the Chicago area every day."
A full shift of air traffic controllers returned to Chicago Center last night and resumed duties at their normal positions for the first time in more than two weeks. Nearly 200 of the facility's workers traveled to other FAA air traffic facilities during the center outage and will be returning from those locations today.
The FAA manages air traffic across the country every day in a dynamic environment that balances airline scheduling with weather events and other factors to safely and efficiently move travelers to their destinations. The scope and timeline of the restoration and recovery process following the fire at Chicago Center was unprecedented. The facility manages flights in high altitude airspace over seven states in the Midwest.
After the outage at Chicago Center, the FAA quickly restored stable and predicable arrival and departure rates at Chicago airports, returning operations to near-normal levels. Air traffic controllers at O'Hare Airport handled more flights than any other airport in the country on 11 days during the last two weeks. FAA technical teams worked around the clock to restore and test more than 20 racks of equipment, 835 telecommunications circuits and more than 10 miles of cable. FAA test flight pilots based in Oklahoma City, OK helped air traffic controllers test more than 100 radio frequencies they use to communicate with pilots. The FAA's Command Center in Warrenton, VA worked closely with the airlines that serve the Chicago-area airports to minimize disruptions for travelers and maximize the number of flights arriving and departing at those airports.