Romulus — Dozens of flights traveling to and from Chicago-area airports Saturday are being canceled or delayed as an air traffic control center continues to recover from a fire.

Flights to and from Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports are being delayed by as much as an hour this morning, while other flights have been canceled entirely.

The delays at Detroit Metropolitan Airport stem from an incident Friday at a suburban Chicago air traffic control center. A contract employee is suspected of setting a fire at the center, bringing two of the nation's busiest airports to a halt.

The worker was found with multiple self-inflicted knife wounds and burns, and authorities quickly ruled out any ties to terrorism.

As a result, some flights have been re-routed with other air traffic control centers, but it’s causing a delay in takeoff times.

According to, 50 flights from Chicago airports to Detroit and 38 flights from Detroit to Chicago have been canceled Saturday. About a dozen more have been delayed.

Friday’s early morning fire forced the evacuation of the control center in Aurora, Ill., about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago.

Emergency crews found the man suspected of setting the fire in the basement, where the blaze began, with knife wounds and burns to his body. It was unclear whether he was intending to commit suicide, said Thomas Ahern, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which was taking part in the investigation.

The 36-year-old FAA contractor, who was authorized to be at the site, was taken to a hospital and was expected to survive.

The man used gasoline as an accelerant, and there was fire damage to some wiring in the building, as well as water damage from the sprinkler system, Ahern said.

By late afternoon Friday, nearly 1,800 flights in and out of Chicago alone had been canceled. A few flights began taking off and landing again around midday, after a nearly five-hour gap. The planes were moving at a much-reduced pace, officials said, and no one could be sure when full service would resume.

Investigators had no immediate information on a possible motive.

(313) 222-2127

The Associated Press contributed.

Read or Share this story: