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Questions remain on why Midway runway lights lost power

Jets take off lMidway Airport city's Southwest Side 2012.  | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Jets take off and land at Midway Airport on the city's Southwest Side in 2012. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 1, 2012 6:06AM

Officials still can’t say why the runway lights at Midway Airport shut down late Thursday night into early Friday morning, affecting some 85 flights.

A power outage shut down the runway’s lights about 8:30 p.m. Thursday, causing the airport to close from 9:10 p.m. to 12:55 a.m. Friday.

Eighty-five flights were canceled or diverted, said Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride, who blamed an airport equipment problem. She said Friday afternoon the cause of the problem was still was under investigation but offered little more.

“The airfield lights went out,” she said Friday. “The terminal lights were operational.”

Pride also wouldn’t say which or how many flights were diverted, saying those decisions were made between the airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration.

FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said she didn’t know how many planes were in the air above Chicago when the runway went dark, nor how many had to land at O’Hare or other airports.

“It’s still being determined,” she said.

Area passengers took to social media to wonder if the airport didn’t have generators, why planes were circling ... even how they ended up in St. Louis.

One passenger described the airport site as a “black hole” in the midst of the Southwest Side.

Commonwealth Edison spokeswoman Martha Swaney said the outage wasn’t caused by ComEd equipment.

At least 80 of the flights belonged to Southwest Airlines, the largest carrier at Chicago’s second airport. Twenty of them were diverted, many to Kansas City; Southwest cancelled another 60, spokeswoman Olga Romero said.

“What we had was no operational lights at the airport, which makes our operation a little difficult,” she said.

By Friday evening, Romero said, all the passengers had reached their final destinations.


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