FAA head, Illinois lawmakers tour sabotaged radar center in Aurora

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The head of the FAA and Illinois lawmakers tour the radar center in  Aurora one week after a fire caused serious damage and major air travel disruptions.

What they saw: About $124 million in damages.

Photos provided by the FAA show technicians cleaning up and repairing damages from last Friday’s arson, set at the hands of a contract employee.

Workers are now removing soot and fire debris from the electronics, floors, walls, and ventilation systems.

O’Hare Airport is now operating at about 86 percent Friday. The FAA is predicting it will taken another 10 days to get things back in order.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta is admitting a number of deficiencies that the FAA and lawmakers plan to address so that future challenges don’t mean thousands of airline passengers will be inconvenienced.

"The current backup plan for the agency is to get everyone on the ground safely, and to their destinations safely," Huerta said. "It has never been that every airline run 100 percent of their operations within 5 minutes of a catastrophic event."

“What we need to have is not only the safety of airlines not only in the air, when this occurs, but the quick restoration of services when this occurs," said Sen. Dick Durbin. "The second part has not been executed or planned or funded at this point for future challenges. Now it’s up to us in Washington to work together in all levels on a bipartisan basis.”

"My top priority for the FAA is to make sure that they have a hot warm backup to ensure they have a conduit of operations just like the Pentagon has," said Sen. Mark Kirk. "We should have a site for the FAA so we can transfer critical control to ensure a seamless conduit of operations, always.”

Huerta spent a good amount of time talking about future plans, the “Next Gen” system, which will allow FAA control centers to more easily transfer operations to other regional facilities. But that program still several years away.

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