Hundreds of cancellations at Midway Airport after tower technicians contract coronavirus
Flights are operating at a reduced rate at Midway International Airport after authorities closed its air traffic control tower when several technicians tested positive Tuesday for the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The Chicago Department of Aviation reported 270 flight cancellations at the airport by Wednesday morning. That includes 141 departures and 129 arrivals, according to the agency's website.
The airport's Twitter account Tuesday night reported flight operations shifted to "one-in-one-out" and that the FAA had implemented a ground delay protocol, which applied to any flights that had not left its point or origin.
"The air traffic control tower at Midway Airport is temporarily closing while we ensure a safe work environment for air traffic controllers and technicians," a Federal Aviation Administration official said. "The airport remains open and operations will continue at a reduced rate until the situation is resolved."
National Air Traffic Controllers Association officials agreed with the move and said they wanted the tower closed "until it can be disinfected according to appropriate public health standards."
"We have also asked to review the cleaning protocols and materials used so that NATCA's industrial hygienist can ensure the efficacy of the work on behalf of our Union's members," union leaders said.
Much of the air traffic in and out of Midway has been handed off to the Chicago Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility in Elgin.
TRACON controllers will manage flights until within sight of Midway, then arriving pilots will announce their presence on the airport frequency. Outbound pilots will announce their presence before departing, then be picked up by TRACON staff.
"The air traffic system is a resilient system with multiple backups in place," FAA spokesman said. "This shift is a regular execution of a long-standing contingency plan to ensure continued operations."