Man pleas guilty in Chicago-area air control center fire

Reuters News
Posted: May 28, 2015 1:01 PM

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Chicago-area man pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal charges of setting fire to a major air traffic control center in September, an incident that snarled flights across the country for days, the Department of Justice said.

Brian Howard, 37, worked in telecommunications at the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora and was apparently upset over a pending job transfer. On Sept. 26, he used wire cutters to sever cables at the center, then rubbed gasoline on telecoms equipment and set it on fire, according to the guilty plea.

The center controls aircraft flying above 5,000 feet over a large part of the central United States, including Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, one of the world's busiest airports.

Howard faces up to 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the loss caused by fire, the Department of Justice said in a news release.

(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Doina Chiacu)