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Air traffic operations back to normal after Chicago fire
[Washington] Operations at a key air traffic facility in Chicago returned to normal Monday, 17 days after a crippling fire that prompted the delay and cancellation of thousands of flights.
In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said a full shift of air traffic controllers resumed duties at the Chicago En Route Center in suburban Aurora shortly after midnight (0500 GMT).
Technicians who had converged on Chicago to restore the facility - which monitors air traffic overflying seven Midwestern states - will stay on until Tuesday to ensure all systems are go.
A 36-year-old Chicago En Route Center contract employee has been charged with setting the fire in a basement telecoms room as part of a failed attempt to take his own life.
More than 1,500 flights at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, one of the world's busiest, were cancelled on the first day alone.
Disruptions dragged on for days as the FAA tasked en route centers in other parts of the United States to fill the breach and keep flights moving safely.
"The men and women of the FAA turned an attack on our air traffic system into an unparalleled display of team work, creativity and resolve," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.
"We appreciate the enduring patience of all travelers who were inconvenienced when Chicago Center was disabled," he added.
The incident underscored the vulnerability of the radar-based US air traffic control network, a relic of the 1950s that the FAA is slowly replacing with a new system called NextGen based on satellite tracking.
Foxx said lessons would be drawn from an ongoing 30-day review of contingency plans and security protocols at major US air traffic facilities, prompted by the Chicago incident. AFP