FAA grapples with COVID cleanups in air traffic centers

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) – Flights were delayed when an air traffic control center near Jacksonville, Fla. Had to close for several hours for a thorough cleaning after an employee tested positive for COVID -19.

Jacksonville International Airport tweeted on Wednesday afternoon that the center would be closed “in the evening, which could cause significant delays and / or cancellations.” He advised passengers to check with their airlines for delayed flights.

It was the second time this year that the Federal Aviation Administration’s flight control center in Hilliard has been closed for cleaning due to the coronavirus. Overall, the Hilliard facility has had 12 staff members tested positive since June, and the tower at nearby Jacksonville International Airport has also had a dozen infections, according to data provided by the FAA.

FAA data shows hundreds of coronavirus infections among air traffic control officers since the start of the pandemic, a challenge the agency says it has met by scheduling most cleanings overnight and with other ways to reduce the impact on air travel.

The FAA said in a statement that the agency has a “robust contingency plan” for each air traffic control center, including backup plans in the event of a temporary shutdown due to COVID or for any other reason.

“The agency continuously monitors controller staffing and traffic demand, and keeps in close contact with airports, airlines and other stakeholders so that we can prioritize our resources to meet the greatest request, “the statement read.

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