6 of Chicago’s most significant ‘ground stops’ of the last decade

SHARE 6 of Chicago’s most significant ‘ground stops’ of the last decade
SHARE 6 of Chicago’s most significant ‘ground stops’ of the last decade

A Federal Aviation Administration ‘ground stop’ order — preventing United flights from taking off nationwide — caused headaches for thousands of passengers Wednesday morning.

It’s the latest in a series of embarrassments for United.

But ground stop orders remain relatively rare. Thankfully, the complete closure of U.S. airspace that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, proved to be an exception.

Still, over the last decade, these incidents all left fuming passengers stranded:

June 2014

All United flights in the U.S. were grounded for an hour because of what the airline called a problem with “dispatching information.”

September 2014

All flights in and out of Chicago’s two airports were halted after FAA contractor Brian Howard started a fire in an Aurora air traffic control center during an attempted suicide.

Thousands of flights were cancelled — and the delays in returning service to normal prompted widespread criticism of the FAA. Howard faces up to 30 years in federal prison when he is sentenced, though he could receive as few as 10 years.

May 2014

An electrical problem forced the evacuation of a regional radar facility in suburban Elginand caused more than 1,100 flights to be cancelled at Midway and O’Hare.

August 2012

A total of 580 United flights were delayed and nine cancelled when the airline asked the FAA to issue ground stops to some of its hub airports, aftera piece of hardware in one of the company’s data centers failed and disabled communications with United’s hubs and website.

United had been struggling with technology problems that grounded flights since it switched in March 2012 to a computer system that was previously used by Continental.

February 2011

Nobody who experienced the monumental blizzard that hit Chicago in the winter of 2011 will soon forget it. More than 100 cars were stuck on Lake Shore Drive, so airplanes didn’t stand a chance.

More than 13,000 flights were cancelled nationwide and O’Hare and Midway shut down completely.

April 2008

More than 300,000 passengers were marooned after the FAA controversially grounded 2,500 American Airlines flights nationwide because checks showed Americaninadequately secured wires on the wheel wells of 300 MD-80 jets.

The concern was that the wires could spark and cause a fire — but critics accused the FAA of posturing as the “tough cop” after whistleblowers told Congress that FAA supervisors had tried to silence safety concerns about Southwest Airlines’ fleet.

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