Obama to use Gary airport, not O’Hare or Midway after FAA fire

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will fly in and out of the airport at Gary, Ind., on Wednesday and Thursday, in the wake of flight delays still plaguing O’Hare and Midway airports following an arson fire on Friday damaging the FAA radar facility in Aurora. 

Most of the cancelled and delayed flights on Tuesday were at O’Hare. Obama is flying to Chicago on Wednesday evening and departing Thursday afternoon after delivering a speech on the economy at Northwestern University in Evanston and headling a fundraiser for Gov. Pat Quinn on the Gold Coast in Chicago.

Obviously, O’Hare is much closer to the NU campus, but the White House did not want Air Force One and the president to get in the way of air traffic.

A White House official told the Chicago Sun-Times, “The President will be flying into Gary, Indiana rather than O’Hare or Midway to allow air traffic control to maximize efficiency in the airspace.”

Flight delays are expected to continue all week. The fire led to the grounding of all flights in the Chicago area, with a ripple impact across the nation.

Air Force One landing and taking off from Gary/Chicago International Airport will be a nice boost for the airport, which has been trying for years to market itself as an alternative to O’Hare and Midway.

Sun-Times Transportation writer Rosalind Rossi has the latest on air traffic woes at the Chicago airport and the man accused of setting the fire at the Aurora tower.

From Rossi’s story: “FlightStats.com Tuesday was listing 210 canceled flights at O’Hare and 403 delays, some as long as 247 minutes. However, that was an improvement from Monday’s 326 O’Hare cancellations and 1,056 delays. Midway’s cancellations Tuesday had shrunk to 4 and delays to only 53, according to the website.”

From the FAA on Tuesday afternoon:

The Federal Aviation Administration is continuing to manage high levels of air traffic in and out of the Chicago-area airports today. FAA analysis shows by 1 p.m. CDT, almost 80 percent of the average Tuesday traffic for the past two months was flying in and out of O’Hare, and about 85 percent at Midway.  Data for yesterday through 12 midnight CDT shows air traffic flow at Chicago O’Hare and Midway was more than 85 percent of the average traffic for the past two months. The FAA will continue to safely maximize efficiency of the airspace and work closely with airlines to provide predictability in arrival and departure rates. The FAA is closely monitoring the weather outlook in the Chicago area and is working with the airlines on weather-related contingency plans in anticipation of predicted thunderstorms in the region over the next several days.

Meanwhile, cleaning crews and technicians are working around the clock at the FAA’s Chicago En Route Center in Aurora, IL to finish cleaning the facility’s ventilation system and other smoke-damaged areas and to install new communications equipment, cabling, and the infrastructure to support it.

Workers have completed a seismic protection grid in the new telecommunications room and have started to install cabinets known as “racks” that house the new equipment. Technicians will continue to install new racks as they arrive and are also working on the extensive cabling necessary to connect the new equipment with other, undamaged systems in the building.

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