Personnel allowed to return to Elgin facility just before 1 p.m.
By BJ Lutz and Phil Rogers| Tuesday, May 13, 2014 | Updated 2:28 PM CDT
Ground stops were in effect Tuesday at O’Hare and Midway international airports because of smoke inside an Federal Aviation Administration building in Elgin. Regina Waldroup reports.
Ground stops were in effect Tuesday at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway international airports because of smoke inside a Federal Aviation Administration building in Elgin, an official confirmed.
All FAA personnel were evacuated from Chicago Terminal Radar Approach Control, a radar facility on Bowes Road, at about 11:30 a.m. after smoke was seen coming from a vent shaft inside the building, Elgin police Cmdr. Dan O’Shea said.
Flight operations were transferred to the Chicago Center in Aurora, the FAA’s Tony Molinaro said. That facility, however, is not equipped to handle the level of traffic the TRACON manages, so it could not assume full normal operations. Some of the TRACON controllers drove to the Aurora facility to assist.
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Responding firefighters blamed the smoke on a faulty motor in the building’s HVAC system. Elgin fire officials allowed aviation supervisors back into the building just before 1 p.m. after the building was deemed safe.
The airports were not closed but operations were limited. A source told NBC Chicago that planes were departing “every three or four minutes.” Information about arrivals was not available. Many flights were diverted or placed in holds.
A few metered flights were taking off again at O’Hare as of 1:30 p.m.
The nation’s TRACON facilities manage the approach and departure of aircraft for a specific airport or a cluster of airports within a defined geographic area. They differ from command centers, which guide planes through large sections of airspace. The towers at airports primarily deal with the movement of planes on the ground.
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