ORLANDO, Fla. – Nearly a dozen flights were canceled Friday at Orlando International Airport because of a fire at a Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control facility near Chicago.
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OIA spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell said as of 10:15 a.m., eight flights -- three arrivals and five departures -- were canceled. The affected airlines were American Airlines and Southwest.
A contract employee at a Chicago-area air traffic control center apparently set a fire and tried to kill himself, officials said Friday, shutting the facility and stopping all flights at the world's second-busiest airport.
The bizarre situation has resulted in a "ground stop," triggering the cancellation of more than 700 flights at O'Hare International Airport and more than 150 at nearby Midway Airport, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.
The employee was being treated after suffering self-inflicted wounds, and police said the incident wasn't related to terrorism. A 50-year-old man at the FAA facility, which controls air traffic for a giant swath of the Midwest, was treated for smoke inhalation, authorities said. Investigators with the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were on the scene.
The stoppages have the potential to create a nightmare ripple effect for travelers flying to O'Hare, which serves more than 1,000 flights each day. Last year, it handled 883,000 takeoffs and landings, ranking it as the second-busiest airport on the planet, according to Airports Council International.
The closure affected so many flights because the center controls planes not just flying in and out of Chicago, but also those flying long-distance routes to other regions, raising the potential for thousands of flight delays nationwide.