Sealing whacked

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On Monday, five air traffic controllers working in the Chicago ex-urb of Aurora came down with the vapors and were sent to the hospital after inhaling fumes from a sealant used in the control center's attic.

On Tuesday, Ron Downen, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association local, said his union asked the FAA to suspend air traffic operations in the area for fear of an accident, saying that controllers were visually impaired from inhaling the fumes. According to Downen, the FAA refused.

Come Wednesday, controller Douglas Hertman filed a class action lawsuit against Spectrum Contracting Corp., the company that stunk up the place. Around the same time, Bryan Zilonis, vice president of the local, suddenly came out singing the FAA's praises, commending its handling of the situation, which apparently amounted to moving controllers from room to room every half hour.

So, all week long, the nation's busiest air traffic control center has been understaffed -- union estimates put sick-out calls stemming from the air problem at about 50 -- and many of the controllers who made it in to the office were working woozy. Not exactly a confidence-inspiring scenario. The upside is, everybody's figured out who to sue.

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