[ISN] Prosecutors reveal new details about blaze at Aurora radar facility

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-air-traffic-center-fire-sentencing-met-20150821-story.html By Jason Meisner Chicago Tribune August 21, 2015 When Brian Howard decided to take out an Aurora radar tower’s telecommunications systems in a botched suicide attempt, he essentially plunged into the dark 135 jets traveling through Midwest airspace. By setting fire last fall to the radar facility where he worked as a telecommunications contractor for the Federal Aviation Administration, Howard left aircraft unable to communicate with ground control while the facility was evacuated, prosecutors said in a court filing that provided new details on the chaos inflicted that day. Among the new disclosures was that Howard cut cables at precisely the most sensitive spot, knocking out the backup telecommunications system in addition to the primary one. Radars went black. The automated handoff system to transfer control of planes to other facilities was down. Even ground-to-ground communications were wiped out. What followed was a controlled panic, as FAA controllers used cellphones and other backup devices to ground planes and turn back hundreds of others about to enter Chicago’s airspace. The contingency plan worked — no planes were lost and no one was reported injured. But severe damage had been done. […]