A Federal Aviation Administration contractor has been sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison for setting a fire at a Chicago-area radar facility that forced the cancellation of thousands of flights nationwide.

Brian Howard pleaded guilty in May to willfully destroying an air navigation facility and using fire to commit a felony.

U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman on Friday sentenced the 37-year-old Naperville resident after a lengthy hearing that included testimony from those impacted by the fire at the Chicago En Route Center in suburban Aurora.

Dan Palmer said he was forced to drive to Texas to visit his dying sister because his flight was canceled. Palmer sobbed when he said his sister died before he reached her Dallas home.

Howard read a statement apologizing for his actions.