(CNN) — All Chicago air traffic was stopped early Friday morning because of a fire at a Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control facility, an FAA spokeswoman said — causing flight delays around the nation.
Flights in and out of Chicago’s O’Hare International and Midway airports were stopped after the FAA reported a fire at its traffic control facility in the western Chicago suburb of Aurora at about 6 a.m. CT (7 a.m. ET), the Chicago Department of Aviation said.
Planes destined for Chicago airports won’t be allowed to depart until at least 10 a.m. CT (11 a.m. ET), the FAA said on its website.
At this time Lambert Airport is showing 6 cancelled arrivals and 5 cancelled departures from the Chicago area. Visit flySTL.com for more.
The stoppages have the potential to create a nightmare ripple effect for travelers flying to O’Hare — one of the world’s busiest airports.
“Anything (that was bound for Chicago) that is still on the ground in its originating city is holding there,” American Airlines spokeswoman Leslie Scott said. “Anything in the air has the possibility of being diverted. And anything on the ground in Chicago will stay there.”
One person was injured in the Aurora facility fire, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said. Further details about the fire weren’t available.
Workers at the Aurora center were evacuated, Cory said. A helicopter crew with CNN affiliate WLS flew over the facility but said no flames or smoke could be seen from the air.
O’Hare serves more than 1,000 flights each day. Last year it handled 883,000 takeoffs and landings, ranking it as the second busiest airport on the planet, according to Airports Council International.
It’s a main hub for United Airlines and other major carriers with flights headed to international destinations. When controllers stop flights scheduled to fly to O’Hare. it has the potential to trigger a line of falling air traffic dominoes that will ruin travel plans for countless would-be passengers.
Smoke at FAA facility stopped Chicago flights in May
Friday’s flight stoppages come four months after smoke at an FAA radar facility in Elgin, Illinois, prompted flight cancellations and delays at O’Hare and Midway.
In that May 13 incident, most flights in and out of O’Hare were delayed by an average of an hour or more, and more than 600 flights were canceled, the Chicago Department of Aviation said. Some 75 flights were canceled at Midway.
The smoke in that May incident was caused by a faulty motor in an air conditioning system, the FAA said at the time.