CHICAGO (CBS) — The Aurora radar center that was damaged by an arson fire last week is on track to be restored and fully operational by Oct. 13, the head of the FAA said Friday, but he stopped short of promising long-term fixes in the immediate future.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta toured the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) with members of the Illinois congressional delegation, a week after a disgruntled contract employee allegedly set fire to equipment and cut cables there. The alleged actions of Brian Howard, 36, who is in federal custody, created a ripple effect that shut down Chicago’s airports, O’Hare and Midway.
“Everyone is working very, very hard,” Huerta told reporters at a news conference after the tour.
Accompanying the FAA chief were U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk.
Durbin said he was disturbed when he saw the damage in the radar facility’s basement.
“It is just stunning that this fire and smoke and soot that came from it, created such havoc,” he said.
Both he and Kirk have been critical of the FAA for last week’s standstill in air service, but they were cordial as they stood next to Huerta. Both said Congress needs to provide financial support to the FAA as it rebuilds its damaged infrastructure. But Kirk said it’s also essential the FAA establish a “hot, warm backup” system that ensures continuity of air traffic control in the event of another incident.
Huerta said the FAA would do its best in the short term but added a comprehensive overhaul is still a couple of years out.