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Aurora air traffic controllers face furloughs

Updated: April 24, 2013 11:24AM



AURORA — Air traffic controllers in Aurora are among those nationally who are dealing with furlough days in a move that is expected to cause delays at Chicago airports.

About 400 air traffic controllers work at the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center at 619 Indian Trail Road in Aurora, and 10 percent of the Aurora air traffic controllers will be on furlough on any given day due to the effects of sequestration, said Tony Molinaro, FAA spokesman, on Tuesday.

Travelers at Midway and O’Hare can expect a wide range of delays that will change throughout the day depending on staffing and weather-related issues, according to the FAA.

On Tuesday, the FAA experienced staffing challenges at the New York and Los Angeles En Route Centers and in Dallas-Ft. Worth and Las Vegas. As a result, controllers spaced planes farther apart so they could manage traffic with current staff, which led to delays at those major airports.

Molinaro said it’s impossible to forecast whether delays will get worse as sequestration furloughs continue.

“If there are delays, you’ll know it’s due to staffing,” Molinaro said from the FAA’s Des Plaines office Tuesday.

On Monday, more than 1,200 delays in the system were attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furlough. There were more than 1,400 additional delays as a result of weather and other factors, according to an FAA statement.

O’Hare International and Midway airports Monday were spared flight delays from air traffic controller furloughs, Chicago officials said Tuesday, but others warned of possible 50-minute hold-ups later in the week.

The impact of Federal Aviation Adminstration-ordered furloughs of 10 percent of air traffic controllers nationwide should grow at O’Hare as the week goes on, said Dan Carrico, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association local at O’Hare Tower said.

The furloughs of air traffic controllers that began Sunday are so unprecedented, Carrico said, some controllers felt the action might be lifted by week’s end, and they “didn’t want to get stuck getting furloughs when the rest of us aren’t.’’ Carrico said controllers are trying to schedule the unpaid days off so they will have the least impact on air traffic.

Delay information specific to Chicago is updated every 15 minutes at fly.faa.gov.

The Chicago Sun-Times
contributed to this report.



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