MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Air traffic in and out of Chicago and other regional airports is slowly returning to normal after Friday’s catastrophic fire in an FAA control center.

On Monday, 36-year-old Brian Howard was charged in federal court with setting the fire and endangering the lives of passengers in flight.

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And because the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center handles thousands of flights a day, the FAA is relying on the help of a facility in Farmington.

The good news is that the spillover effects at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport have diminished greatly. And by Tuesday, flights to and from O’Hare should be back to normal.

But in the background, critical work is taking place down in Farmington.

Looking at passengers scurrying around the MSP Airport, you wouldn’t know a crisis had hit our busy skies.

Friday’s fire at Chicago’s FAA center resulted in 100 flights cancelled here.

On Monday, there were just two.

“It’s getting back to normal for us at least here,” an airport spokesperson said. “I know that the FAA is working on getting that up and running full force.”

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But that’s a huge job and means shifting the bulk of control to folks at Farmington and three other FAA control centers in Cleveland, Kansas City and Indianapolis.

On Monday, FAA chief Michael Huerta said they’ll pick up the work of handling all air traffic above 18,000 feet.

That will include moving a handful of Chicago’s controllers to the Farmington facility–where they’ll work until repairs are made.

“People always should be looking at their flight schedules obviously before they come here just so they know for sure if their flight is on time or is going to be going out,” the spokesperson said.

The situation is being compared to having a major snowstorm in the middle of the best fall weather we’ve had–grounding and delaying thousands of flights, affecting tens of thousands of passengers.

In Chicago, the FAA will begin installing new equipment in areas where there was fire damage as soon as Monday night.

But there was extensive damage to communications gear, cables and computers, and they don’t expect full operation until around Oct. 13.

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