FAA chief to visit damaged Aurora facility Friday

SHARE FAA chief to visit damaged Aurora facility Friday

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration will tour the agency’s Aurora facility Friday — a week after a fire there crippled the nation’s air traffic.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) will join FAA administrator Michael Huerta and other members of the Illinois delegation on the tour of the Aurora facility, Durbin, Foster and the FAA said in news releases issued Thursday.

After the tour, Huerta, air traffic controllers and other aviation safety specialists will discuss “round-the-clock efforts to restore operations” to the Aurora facility, the FAA said in its news release.

Earlier this week, Durbin and other Illinois elected officials called for an federal inspector general to investigate contingency plans and security protocols used by the Aurora facility. An FAA contractor has been charged with setting the fire in a basement telecommunications room and then trying to take his own life.

The announcement of the tour comes a day after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the FAA has “to work harder and better and smarter” to get the facility up to full speed — something not expected until Oct. 13.

O’Hare International Airport — which won back the title of world’s busiest airport this month, based on total flights through Aug. 31 — has led the nation in cancellations ever since the last week’s fire.

More than 230 flights were cancelled at O’Hare because of weather conditions Friday morning, and airlines were reporting “minor to no delays,” according to the city’s Department of Aviation. Flights at Midway were delayed by an average of 30 minutes.

“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,” Durbin said Thursday. “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.”

Huerta vowed Monday to conduct a 30-day review of emergency and security protocols at all “major” FAA facilities, but Durbin and others have said a third-party probe of just Chicago-area facilities is warranted.

Friday’s incident marked the second fire in a Chicago area facility since May to trigger cancellations and delays nationwide.

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