Update: March 21, 2020, 3:30 p.m. ET
After a brief interlude, The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has lifted its stop order for flights headed into all New York-area airports, while the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZNY) closed down due to “staffing issues”. Philidelphia International Airport was also affected by the air-traffic disruption.
ZNY was closed down for roughly an hour, although air traffic controllers and inbound planes were initially told that the interruption could last several hours, and that flights could be diverted or even sent back to their origination point.
In a statement shared with coronavirus-faa-temporary-ground-stop-jfk-laguardia-newark-philadelphia/2891750001/” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>USA Today, FAA spokesperson Arlene Salac said, “A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic controller trainee at New York Air Route Traffic Control Center in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., tested positive for COVID-19 today.”
Reportedly, the trainee who tested positive has not been present on the premises since March 17, but ZNY temporarily closed down for roughly an hour this afternoon while the FAA decided on next steps.
The FAA has informed local health authorities of the confirmed COVID-19 case, and is working cooperatively to develop a plan for sanitizing any affected areas and to track down any personnel who might have interacted with the infected employee.
According to NBC News, the FAA wrote in an advisory, posted around 1:45 p.m. ET.: “Due to staffing issues at ZNY, please stop all departures to airports within ZNY. This includes KJFK, KEWR, KLGA, KTEB, KHPN, KPHL, KMMU, KCDW, KMDT, KABE, KISP, KFRG and several smaller airports.”
An email from the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)—sent to a TravelPulse reporter who is presently aboard a flight from Antigua to New York—stated, “All New York majors…are nationwide ground stopped.” It clarified, “There are no [air traffic control] services available at this time from NY Center until further advised.”
“Airborne traffic will be diverted or sent back to origination if they have not yet entered ZNY airspace yet. Taxiing aircraft will be sent back to ramp and indefinitely held,” the update revealed.
NBC News speculated that the operational shutdown could be related to a coronavirus-outbreak” target=”_self” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>COVID-19 case, although it didn’t provide a basis for such an assumption.
A full briefing from the FAA regarding the extent of the New York-area air traffic issue is expected to be issued soon.
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