Chicago Center Fire: One Year Later

  • Sep 26, 2015 8:48am GMT

One year ago, September 26, 2014, was the date of the biggest catastrophe to hit the national airspace system in the United States. Brian Howard, a contractor at the Chicago Air-Route Traffic Control Center, set fire to multiple computers and wiring in the basement of Chicago Center severing the facilities radar coverage, communication lines, and flight plan processing for flights throughout the system.

The very next day my Union president called me to ask if I’d go to O’Hare Tower to assist those controllers in the chaos, to which I enthusiastically said yes. In fact, hundreds of controllers from Chicago Center voluntarily traveled to just about every facility directly affected by outage to assist those controllers with the additional workload. After helping O’Hare for two days I ended up joining a team at Minneapolis Center where we worked Chicago Center’s airspace using our neighbor’s facility.

So much can be said about the fire and the huge delays the airlines incurred. But to see my coworkers bust their butts in the tower and at neighboring Centers to get the job done without a whine or complaint really makes me proud to do what I do.

That’s all I have to say about that. Check out the video below to hear real audio once the fire hit the facility.


One of the best reports of the Chicago Center Fire was from Dave Hirschman of the AOPA. Check it out here.