11 air traffic control centers have been temporarily closed after workers tested positive for coronavirus, highlighting a vulnerability in air travel

tpallini@businessinsider.com (Thomas Pallini)
Air Traffic Control Tower
Air Traffic Control Tower

An air traffic control tower.

Rafael Cordero/Getty

  • Numerous Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers have tested positive for COVID-19, leading to the temporary closure of facilities for cleaning.

  • Eleven sites across the country, including at major airports in New York, Chicago, and Las Vegas, have been temporarily closed for cleaning, affected flight operations.

  • Some facilities have been closed for multiple days leaving inbound and departing aircraft left to their own devices for taxi, take-off, and landing.

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The Federal Aviation Administration released a map indicating that 11 air traffic control facilities operated by the body across the US have had personnel test positive for COVID-19, contributing to airport closures and flight delays while cleaning efforts commence.

Chicago's Midway Airport was the first to effectively close after an air traffic controller assigned to the airport's air traffic control tower tested positive for the virus.

Other major airports affected by the spread of the novel coronavirus include John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York and Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport. Most incidents outside Las Vegas have been restricted to the east of the Mississippi River with New York being the most affected region.

Facilities with COVID-19-positive technicians have had to shut down for cleanings, closing down vital airspace and restricting access to major airports for extended periods. Aircraft continuing to operate to some airports without backup facilities during the closures have had to communicate directly with each other for separation.

Here's the full list of the FAA air traffic control sites affected by COVID-19.

Midway Airport
Midway Airport


Midway International Airport in Chicago.

Thomas Barrat/shutterstock

The air traffic control tower at Chicago's Midway International Airport on Tuesday became the first FAA facility to be closed due to a technician testing positive for COVID-19. The temporary closure effectively ceased air traffic at the airport while the facility could be cleaned.

Inbound flights were either held at their origins or diverted to airports as far as Milwaukee and St. Louis. The airport is a base for Southwest Airlines and is Chicago's second-largest passenger airport following nearby O'Hare International Airport.

Las Vegas Airport
Las Vegas Airport


chara_stagram / Shutterstock.com

The control tower at Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport closed on Wednesday after a controller tested positive for COVID-19. The facility remains closed as cleaning efforts continue and with no temporary facility in place, aircraft have been left to their own devices for taxi, take-off, and landing clearances as the airspace has reverted to uncontrolled status.

Departures and arrivals at the airport have been reduced to account for the reduced air traffic control services available.

Air Force One Las Vegas
Air Force One Las Vegas


Marc Sanchez/Icon Sportswire/Getty

The Las Vegas Terminal Radar Approach Control Facility temporarily closed on Wednesday after an air traffic controller tested positive for COVID-19. Controllers at the facility handle air traffic into Las Vegas area airports including McCarran International, North Las Vegas Airport, and Henderson Executive Airport.

JFK Airport
JFK Airport


Mark Lennihan/AP

The air traffic control tower at JFK Airport was temporarily closed as a technician had tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. Air traffic controllers at New York's primary gateway and one of 13 US government-approved entry airports for US citizens entering the country from Europe or who had been to mainland China were forced to relocate to a temporary facility.

Flight delays were limited to the early morning as controllers moved from the airport's iconic control tower to an undisclosed backup facility somewhere on airport property.

Indianapolis Airport
Indianapolis Airport


EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

The Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center on the grounds of Indianapolis International Airport was closed overnight following a positive test for COVID-19 was reported from an air traffic controller assigned to the facility. The FAA temporarily closed the facility for cleaning, affecting the entirety of Indianapolis Center's airspace which includes parts of Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Illinois, and Kentucky.

Wilmington's New Castle Airport Delaware
Wilmington's New Castle Airport Delaware


New Castle Airport

An air traffic controller working in the control tower at Wilmington New Castle Airport tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday. The airport serves Delaware's largest city and is primarily used for private and general aviation having lost most of its commercial service.

Frontier Airlines is planning to return to the airport in May with seasonal service to Orlando.

LaGuardia Airport
LaGuardia Airport


Adrees Latif/Reuters

The control tower at New York's LaGuardia Airport, the busiest non-international airport in the tri-state area, was closed overnight on Saturday after an air traffic controller tested positive for COVID-19.

The impact on the airport's operation was minimal as restrictions limit the number of flights that can utilize LaGuardia overnight, with mainly early morning flights affected.

Air traffic control
Air traffic control


Hyoung Chang/The Denver PostGetty

The New York Air Route Traffic Control Center on the grounds of Long Island's MacArthur Airport was temporarily closed after a controller tested positive for COVID-19.

The affected airspace restricted flights into New York area airports, with aircraft having to take longer routes in order to avoid closed sectors, as well as Oceanic airspace which stretches from New York past Bermuda and services flights heading to the Caribbean, Europe, South America, and Africa.

Republic Airport
Republic Airport


Bruce Bennett/Getty

An air traffic controller who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday prompted the shutdown of Farmingdale Republic Airport's control tower on Sunday for a two-week period.

The Long Island airport, primarily catering to general aviation and business jet traffic will remain open under uncontrolled conditions leaving aircraft to communicate directly with each other when on the ground and in the proximity of the airport in the air.

Leesburg Executive Airport
Leesburg Executive Airport


Ricky Carioti/The The Washington Post/Getty

An air traffic controller at a Washington, DC area airport tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, the closest reported case at an airport to the nation's capital and one of the most restricted airspace areas in the world.

Located just upriver from the capital, Leesburg Executive acts as one of the few private and general aviation-only airports serving Washington.

Peoria International Airport
Peoria International Airport


Jeff Haynes/Reuters

An air traffic controller assigned to the air traffic control tower at Peoria International Airport in Illinois tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.

The Central Illinois airport sees service from four airlines including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Allegiant Air, as well as private and general aviation and aircraft.

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