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Southern airport delays after Jacksonville traffic control closes due to COVID

Posted at 5:41 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 19:08:15-05


Airports in the southern U.S. are experiencing delays after an FAA employee tested positive for COVID-19, temporarily closing the Jacksonville Traffic Control Center until the facility was disinfected.

Jacksonville Center resumed operations at 6 p.m. local time when workers finished cleaning the facility. The FAA implemented traffic management programs between 4:20 and 6 p.m. to handle flights on the limited routes that avoided the center’s airspace.

The current status of every FAA facility affected by COVID is in this map:

The FAA provided the following statement:

"The FAA has a robust contingency plan for every air traffic control facility, and remains positioned to quickly address the effects of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The agency continually monitors controller staffing and traffic demand, and remains in close contact with airports, airlines and other stakeholders so we can prioritize our resources to meet the greatest demand."

• We are in constant communication with the airline industry on daily Command Center calls and weekly calls with industry senior leadership. In the event resources become constrained, we will work with industry to identify priority flights and prioritize our resources to meet the greatest demand.

• Every ATC facility has a backup plan in case it has to temporarily close. This has been the case for many years and is not related to COVID.

• We generally schedule COVID cleanings for the overnight hours. Sometimes, controllers are able to work from a designated backup facility, such as an airline ramp tower.

• During the past few months, we have greatly reduced the amount of time facilities remain closed for COVID-19-related cleaning – from six to eight hours down to as little as one to one-and-a-half hours. Our collaboration with labor partners and agency medical staff resulted in a cleaning regimen that enables us to respond quickly. We now use repeat contractors and have defined clear scopes of work. We continually coordinate among air traffic control, technical operations and airline industry to minimize the time that we revert to a contingency operation.

Airports in the southern U.S. are experiencing delays and asking travelers to track their flight status through their airline.

Officials say a temporary closure of the Jacksonville FAA Air Traffic Control Center is causing delays in airports south of Atlanta.

This is a developing story.