Smoke at FAA facility in Chicago causes ground stop there, delays in Denver

Ground stop in Chicago

DENVER — Passengers at Denver International Airport were feeling the ripple effect of bad weather in the Midwest, then a ground stop at Chicago O’Hare International Airport because of smoke in the FAA’s Air Traffic Control Center in Illinois.

600 flights were canceled out of O’Hare and hundreds of delays and cancelations at DIA to and from the Windy City created a backlog. A spokesperson for Denver International Airport said each passenger should check with his or her airline before heading to the airport because it could take quite a while for the backlog to normalize.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport is the second busiest airport in the nation. It’s also a hub for United and American Airlines. Those airlines seemed to be the worst off, with the problem trickling all the way to DIA.

Sharon Mushkin was on her way to Chicago on business. She explained, “They got us on the plane, and we sat there and they got us off the plane then they boarded us again and we were sitting on the plane and then they got us off.” Mushkin said, “I now have to reschedule my meeting.” Frustrated with a wasted day of canceled flights, she finally decided just to head home. “It’s been a long day.”

Others, like Boulder resident Kathy Mason, got stuck in Chicago for an extra day. “It was wild. I mean the line in O’Hare there were thousands,” Mason said “It was like 4 rows deep, all the way down.”

Some were stuck in the airport; others were stuck on the tarmac. Kristy Schwartz finally made it home to Denver, three hours late, after sitting on the runway for more than two hours. She said they kept the plane running for most of the time. “It was running for a good portion, but they turned it off occasionally because they wanted to save gas. I guess some planes had to go back and get more fuel.”