The Federal Aviation Administration halted all arriving and departing flights out of DFW International Airport and Dallas Love Field Wednesday. The two airports announced the air traffic stoppage on their respective social media channels. The closures were in affect from 3 p.m. until around 5:30 p.m. and were in part due to bad weather and required sanitation at the FAA's primary offsite operations center for the region in Fort Worth, a spokesperson for FAA said.
The control center employs about 380 air traffic controllers and handles high-level air traffic in multiple states.
Arlene Salac, a spokesperson for the FAA, told the Observer in an emailed statement that earlier Wednesday an air traffic control employee at Fort Worth Air Traffic Control Center tested positive for COVID-19. They had last been in the facility on Christmas.
The spokesperson said if an affected employee has been in the facility seven days or fewer before testing positive for the virus, the agency's protocols require a level 3 cleaning of all areas where that employee may have been. The cleaning began around 3:45 p.m. local time.
Because the cleaning required employees to temporarily leave the control room, the FAA declared a ground stop, causing delays and cancellations. Other FAA facilities supported the closure and worked traffic around the affected airspace, Salac said. The cleaning was finished around 5:05 p.m., allowing the flights to continue.
"The FAA takes the safety of its employees and the flying public very seriously," the spokesperson said. "Throughout this event, pilots were always in touch with air traffic control employees, either at Fort Worth Air Traffic Control Center, or other air traffic control facilities."
As of late Wednesday evening, Flightaware.com was reporting hundreds of delays and cancellations in and out of the two airports.
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