Midway tower still closed, FAA restricts small jets after touch-and-goes
About 82% of flights at Midway International Airport are sidelined today because of weather and closure of the air traffic control tower, which is being disinfected after COVID-19 coronavirus.
Several technicians at the tower tested positive for the respiratory disease Tuesday, leading to 428 Midway flights out of 520 being canceled in the last 24 hours, the Chicago Department of Aviation reports.
Rain and fog isn't helping. So far, "we don't have any flights (this morning) at Midway due to weather conditions" and the tower closure, a Southwest Airlines spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, a few local private pilots took advantage of the unusual peace and quiet on the runways Wednesday to execute several "touch-and-go" maneuvers, where planes touch down briefly without stopping, then take off.
Although the number of touch-and-go practices was small, the Federal Aviation Administration placed flight restrictions at Midway that permit only commercial flights and other authorized aircraft to land and depart, a spokesman said.
The limitations are intended to prevent any conflicts between private pilots and commercial jets while air traffic controllers are absent from the tower.
The restrictions continue through March 26 but can be canceled "at any time."
"The FAA will continue keeping Chicago city officials updated on our progress to ensure the health and safety of FAA employees as we conduct a thorough cleaning of the air traffic control tower at Chicago Midway Airport," the spokesman said.
Without air traffic controllers in the tower, Midway is operating on a "one in, one out" basis for airplanes.
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 FAA is in close contact with the airport, airlines and other stakeholders. The airport remains open to commercial flights, following long-established procedures for operating at non-towered airports.
Passengers are advised to check their airlines before heading to Midway.