FAA temporarily halts flights at DFW and Dallas Love Field due to COVID-19 case at regional control center
A positive COVID-19 case at a key FAA air traffic control center in Fort Worth brought air traffic to a standstill at DFW International Airport and Dallas Love Field on Wednesday afternoon.
The FAA suspended all incoming and outgoing traffic at the two airports between 3:45 p.m. and 5:20 p.m. During this time, the air traffic controllers had to leave the control room and make a stopover at both airports.
“A number of unique circumstances, including a positive COVID-19 test and convective weather, resulted in delays in air traffic in and around Dallas-Fort Worth that late afternoon,” FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Corey said in a statement. “The FAA was up and running quickly with a thorough and expedited clean. The Fort Worth Air Traffic Control Center in Fort Worth, Texas was back online in less than two hours.”
Nearly 200 flights were delayed and 15 canceled Wednesday afternoon, according to Flightaware.com, and planes had to circumnavigate the region or divert to other airports while waiting for the facility and airports to reopen.
The FAA employee tested positive for COVID-19 after his last job on Christmas Day and the agency’s protocols require a thorough cleaning of the facility where the infected employee works, Corey said.
The interruptions have become routine since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this interruption came during one of the busiest travel periods of the year.
The infected employee worked at the Federal Aviation Administrations air traffic control center in Fort Worth, near American Airlines headquarters. The 380-strong office manages traffic for all airlines and other aircraft in the region.
Despite the shutdown, other FAA facilities in the area continued to be in contact with pilots flying in the area until the ground stop was lifted.
DFW is the largest hub for American Airlines, based in Fort Worth. Dallas Love Field is also one of Southwest Airlines’ largest airports and is where its corporate headquarters are located.
There have been approximately 22 COVID-19 cases among staff at the FAA Air Traffic Control Center in Fort Worth. The facility is located south of DFW Airport near American Airlines headquarters.
These types of shutdowns were routine during the COVID-19 pandemic, and several major airports had more than one such shutdown, Corey said.