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
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.