The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted a brief suspension of flights to New York City-area airports because of coronavirus-related staffing issues at a regional air-traffic control center, Your Content has learned.
In an alert posted online Saturday, the agency advised air traffic controllers to “stop all departures” to Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark and other airports in the region.
The directive also affected Philadelphia International Airport.
The halt was lifted after about 30 minutes. Initially air traffic controllers were warned it could last several hours.
The FAA released this statement to 1010 WINS at the time of the suspension:
A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic controller trainee at New York Air Route Traffic Control Center in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., tested positive for COVID-19 today. The trainee has not been at the facility since March 17.
We have contacted local health authorities and we are developing a plan to quickly sanitize/clean the affected areas.
The center remains open and operational. The FAA has initiated traffic management initiatives for sectors closed during the sanitization process. Flights will be rerouted as part of a longstanding contingency plan to ensure continued operations. The center primarily handles high-altitude, cross-country flights. Each facility across the country has a contingency plan that has been recently updated and tested
The safety of our staff and the traveling public is the FAA’s top priority. Our controllers, technicians, inspectors and others with critical safety or security sensitive roles are essential components of our national airspace system.
The FAA is working with local health officials and employee representatives to determine how many personnel might have interacted with the trainee in recent days.
The Federal Aviation Administration is temporarily halting flights to New York City area airports because of coronavirus-related staffing issues at a regional air-traffic control center.