ATC Disruptions Grow Amid Positive Covid-19 Tests

 - March 20, 2020, 12:54 PM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.


Positive Covid-19 tests are increasingly disrupting the U.S. air traffic control system, forcing the FAA to temporarily shutter several of its towers for cleaning. The most recent notification came on Friday when a positive test involved a technician who worked at the tower at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. While the technician was last at the tower briefly on March 16 and did not enter the cab where controllers work, the FAA decided to close the tower as a precaution. The agency said controllers there are working from an alternate location at that airport.

Similar steps were taken on Thursday at the tower at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas after a controller there presumptively tested positive. The FAA was working to determine how many controllers would need to self-isolate as a result. Las Vegas Terminal Radar Approach Control began handling ATC duties at the airport. Air traffic handling was altered above FL230 around Indianapolis after the FAA had a partial closure of its Air Route Traffic Control Center, due to a positive test of an air traffic control supervisor there. The center has remained open while three work areas are sanitized.

Meanwhile, the agency has now imposed a temporary flight restriction at Chicago Midway Airport limiting traffic to only commercial and other authorized operations. The FAA, which earlier this week had shuttered the tower there for cleaning after several technicians tested positive, said it needed to impose the TFR after reports surfaced that the airport was being used for touch-and-go landings. That TFR is in place through March 26, while the tower remains closed for cleaning, but can be lifted earlier, the FAA said.