Coronavirus among air traffic control workers could threaten the US aviation Industry

A major outbreak of the coronavirus among air traffic controllers could threaten much of the U.S. aviation system’s efficiency, revealing weaknesses in the Federal Aviation Administration’s contingency plans.

FAA personnel at air traffic control facilities from Las Vegas to New York have tested positive in the last week, prompting closures while the buildings were cleaned. The majority of the almost one dozen facilities affected so far have been towers at airports, but two of the incidents have been at centers responsible for controlling airspace over multiple states.

Though the airports themselves remained open, buildings had to be closed temporarily and control duties taken over by another facility, creating delays even in this depressed environment for flights. A cascade of more cases spreading throughout the controller community, especially if it hits several facilities in one region at the same time, could be crippling.

The FAA has contingency plans in place for just this sort of issue — which were updated as recently as this month — but no amount of contingency planning could anticipate a system affected by virus hot spots across the country

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