Hundreds of flights into and out of Chicago’s two international airports were put on hold for more than an hour Tuesday after a faulty fan whirled smoke inside a Federal Aviation Administration facility, prompting worries about a fire and forcing an evacuation of all employees, the agency said.
Firefighters allowed FAA employees back into the building after an hourlong search for the origin of the smoke. The Elgin, Ill., Police Department said a faulty motor in the heating and air conditioning system apparently burned out or malfunctioned and spewed smoke.
The ground stop at O’Hare and Midway international airports went into effect about 11:30 a.m. CDT and was expected to last until at least 1 p.m. The Chicago Terminal Radar Approach Control facility in the suburb of Elgin helps guide planes on takeoffs and landings.
As employees evacuated, the FAA said their operations were immediately handed over to the FAA’s Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, Ill., which sequences planes on approach and departure.
The FAA’s airport status webpage listed “OTHER / FIRE ALARM” as the reason for the ground stop at O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport.
Elgin Police Department Cmdr. Dan O’Shea said police and fire responded to a call of smoke and were working at the scene, but initial investigators did not find a fire.
WISN-TV in Milwaukee reported that some flights were being diverted to Milwaukee.
FlightStats reported that 237 flights into O’Hare had been delayed and 232 departing the airport had been delayed, as of 12:30 p.m. At Midway, a combined 51 flights in and out of the airport were delayed.