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Kirk, Lipinski To FAA: How Could One Person Create So Much Air-Traffic Chaos?

(CBS) – There are mounting questions about how one person could so easily cause such chaos for Chicago's airports.

A similar incident happened in May. And now an aviation expert and members of Illinois' congressional delegation want answers.

"The fact that one person can bring down thousands of flights with a can of gasoline is astounding," DePaul University transportation professor Joe Schweiterman tells CBS 2's Brad Edwards.

Schweiterman was commenting on the arson fire that Brian Howard, an FAA contract employee, allegedly set at a radar facility in Aurora.

But he had expressed similar concern earlier this year, when an accidental fire – in Elgin – similarly hobbled air travel.

He wonders if the suspect took his cues from the earlier incident.

Congressman Dan Lipinski, who sits on a subcommittee on aviation, also wondered.

"The fact that one person can do this indicates there is a problem in our system and we need to take a careful look at this," the Chicago Democrat said.

U.S. Sen Mark Kirk, a North Shore Republican, will be demanding answers from the FAA, which was largely AWOL Friday at news conferences, as countless travelers were stuck at O'Hare and Midway.

"I'm going to be contacting the FAA and asking them for evidence of a contingency plan that ensures continuous operation, within 30 days," Kirk says.

Says Schweiterman: "I'm quite sure with some internal methods the pain of this could have been minimized."

The Federal Aviation Administration released a statement about Friday's disruption in air service, hours after the crisis began. FAA officials said they were preparing to assess what happened to the equipment at the Aurora facility.

"The FAA is using all of its available air traffic tools to maximize capacity at the Chicago-area airports. The FAA will continue working with operators through the weekend to reduce disruptions. Travelers are encouraged to contact their airlines for further information about specific flights," the agency said in its statement.

The FAA deferred questions about the arson fire to the FBI and ATF.

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