Flights bound for O'Hare Airport were delayed Monday afternoon after a telephone line used by air-traffic controllers was cut during routine maintenance, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
Delays for arriving flights averaged 15 minutes and were as much as an hour and a half for some flights, the FAA reported. Poor weather in the area also didn't help matters.
The telephone line, which was severed about 3:30 p.m., links communications between O'Hare and a radar facility in Elgin that controllers use to direct air traffic in and out of the Chicago area.
The FAA switched to a backup radar system in Tinley Park as a precaution, but because the backup system does not cover some areas north of O'Hare, controllers at the Elgin facility used greater spacing distances between arriving planes.
Instead of the usual three miles, controllers kept planes five miles apart horizontally, which limited the number of flights able to land at the airport, FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said.
Repairs on the line were not complete as of 5:30 p.m. Monday, and Molinaro said he was unsure when the problem would be fixed. An AT&T crew was blamed for the accident.
Midway Airport was not affected by the radar outage, FAA officials said.
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Flight totals at O'Hare have been on a steady decline since 2004, when the FAA limited the arrivals during peak periods in an effort to reduce delays.
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The plane got an alert in the cockpit showing that it was near an aircraft four miles apart horizontally.