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FAA traffic site near Chicago returns to full operation

Full operation was restored on Monday at a Chicago-area air traffic control site that was shut down in September by a fire allegedly set by a field technician, forcing extensive flight delays and cancellations, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The fire forced the evacuation of the FAA control center in Aurora, Illinois on Sept. 26. Thousands of flights were canceled at major airports in Chicago and across the United States and the disruption continues for several days.

Operations were slowly returned to near normal at O’Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport in the days after the fire by shifting nearly 200 workers and responsibilities to other sites, the FAA has said.

The center in Aurora covers high-altitude airspace over seven Midwestern states. The FAA is reviewing its contingency plans and security protocols for its major facilities as a result of the attack, it said.

Brian Howard, 36, of the Chicago suburb of Naperville, was charged with a federal felony count of destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities, prosecutors said.

Harris Corp, the FAA telecommunications contractor which employed Howard, said he worked for eight years as a Harris field technician and was terminated after the incident.

O’Hare, one of the world’s busiest airports, is the largest hub of United Airlines and a major hub for American Airlines. O’Hare averaged about 2,600 flights a day in August and Midway more than 700, according to their websites.

Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis.

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