COVID-19 causes closure of air control center in Florida

Several flights delayed their takeoff time when an air traffic control center near Jacksonville, Florida, was forced to suspend operations for several hours to undergo a thorough cleaning after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

Jacksonville International Airport tweeted Wednesday afternoon that the center would be closed “at night, which could cause lengthy delays and / or cancellations” and advised passengers to check directly with their airlines regarding delayed flights.

It was the second time this year that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight control center in Hilliard has closed for sanitizing for coronavirus-related issues. Overall, facilities at Hilliard have reported 12 COVID-19 cases among staff members since June, and the nearby tower at Jacksonville International Airport has also experienced a dozen infections, according to data provided by the FAA.

FAA data reveals hundreds of coronavirus infections among air traffic control workers since the start of the pandemic, a challenge the agency believes it has managed to overcome by scheduling most cleanup tasks during night shifts and with other ways to reduce the impact on flights.

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

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