U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth and several others from the Illinois Congressional delegration today asked the Department of Transportation Inspector General to conduct an immediate investigation into the Federal Aviation Administration’s emergency protocol and mitigation measures at Chicago air traffic control facilities.
The request comes after a fire broke out last week in the air traffic control center in Aurora, Illinois, causing the cancellation and delay of hundreds of flights in and out of Chicago’s O’Hare International and Midway International airports. This is the second fire to disrupt traffic at the Aurora center this year.
“Critical safety issues like those experienced in the past year warrant an investigation into the emergency protocol and mitigation practices at Chicago air traffic control facilities and ways the FAA can mitigate fire hazards at some of the nation’s busiest air traffic control centers,” the Illinois members wrote. “Recommended improvements from the review could protect the safety of workers at the Chicago facilities and passengers flying to and from Chicago.”
Text of today’s letter is below.
September 29, 2014
The Honorable Calvin L. Scovel III
Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave. S.E.
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Inspector General Scovel:
We are writing to request an immediate review of emergency and security protocols at Chicago air traffic control facilities. This request comes in response to the fire intentionally set by an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) contract employee at the FAA’s main Chicago air traffic control center in Aurora, Illinois, on September 26, 2014. This incident is the second time since May that a fire at a Chicago air traffic control center resulted in delays and cancellations of hundreds of flights in and out of O’Hare and Midway international airports. These recent outbreaks are of great concern, and we encourage you to ensure adequate protocols, emergency plans, and security measures are in place to help prevent and mitigate the impact of these emergencies.
The high volume of flight traffic and the complexity of the Chicago region’s airspace requires quick, efficient responses when emergencies occur. An Inspector General review of FAA’s practices and policies during these recent events could help prevent similar incidents in the future. Recommended improvements from such a review could protect the safety of workers at the Chicago facilities and passengers flying to and from Chicago. Secondly, we encourage you to evaluate whether the FAA has taken all the steps necessary to improve their emergency response capabilities and mitigation procedures since the closure of the Chicago Terminal Radar Approach Control building in May.
Critical safety issues like those experienced in the past year warrant an investigation into the practices at Chicago air traffic control facilities. We encourage you to begin this investigation without delay and make recommendations to prevent these incidents from happening as quickly as possible. Thank you for your consideration of this request.