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FAILURE OF 3 ILLINOIS SYSTEMS LEAVES CONTROLLERS GUESSING, BLOCKS CALLS

Air traffic controllers were guessing where planes were, futures traders lost precious time and some people couldn't make long-distance phone calls.

So went the technological nightmare Wednesday when three entirely unconnected systems broke down, paralyzing O'Hare International Airport and the Chicago Board of Trade and disrupting MCI Communications Corp.The breakdown began at 8:45 a.m., when all radar systems shut down at a regional air traffic control center in suburban Aurora, bringing O'Hare to a virtual standstill. A power outage at the control center was blamed.

Then Board of Trade computers shut down at 9:37 a.m. - and so did all activity on the floor.

Adding to the mess, area residents who use MCI long-distance found their service disrupted for about two hours.

For 1 1/2 hours, no planes were allowed to leave O'Hare and only planes on final approach were permitted to land, said Lisa Howard, spokeswoman for the Chicago Aviation Department.