New York-Area Flights Delayed as Virus Strikes FAA Facility

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An air-traffic facility that oversees space around New York City is being cleansed after a trainee tested positive for Covid-19, leading to some delays and briefly halting flights to JFK airport.

A person training to become a controller was confirmed with the coronavirus on Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. The trainee hadn’t been at work since March 17, the agency said.

The Air Route Traffic Control Center in Ronkonkoma, New York, remained open while areas where the person worked were disinfected. Similar to what happens when airspace is closed due to thunderstorms, controllers rerouted planes and slowed traffic. Flights departing other airports for John F. Kennedy International were being held on the ground. An earlier slowdown for flights to Philadelphia International was lifted by 2:50 p.m. local time, according to an FAA website.

“The safety of our staff and the traveling public is the FAA’s top priority,” the agency said. “Our controllers, technicians, inspectors and others with critical safety or security sensitive roles are essential components of our national airspace system.”

Saturday’s FAA action is the fifth time in less than a week that flights have been disrupted as a result of the virus, as controllers and technicians become infected. Issues at Chicago’s Midway and Las Vegas McCarran had caused more than 1,100 canceled flights through Friday.

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