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FAA halted flights to LaGuardia Airport due to air traffic control staffing issues

The ground stop lasted most of Friday morning due to a ‘slight increase in sick leave’ at two facilities in Florida and Virginia

The FAA was reporting flight delays due to air traffic control staffing issues on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The FAA was reporting flight delays due to air traffic control staffing issues on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded flights bound to New York’s LaGuardia Airport Friday morning due to “a slight increase” of air traffic control staff calling in sick. 

On Twitter, the FAA posted a notice saying, “We have experienced a slight increase in sick leave at two facilities. We are mitigating the impact by augmenting staffing, rerouting traffic, and increasing spacing between aircraft when needed.”

By lunchtime Friday, flights to LaGuardia had resumed. 

An airport spokesman said that though the staffing problems would be resolved at noon, afternoon departures would have to be staggered to control arrivals to the airport.

Friday morning the FAA said it implemented a “traffic management program” stopping inbound aircraft from flying to the New York City airport. 

Friday marked the 35th day of the partial government shutdown. 

Essential FAA personnel, including air traffic controllers, have been working without pay during the partial shutdown. The lapse in funding has also shuttered the Department of Transportation.

The problems occurred at both the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center in Florida and the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center, which is located in Leesburg, Va.

“This is causing some arriving flights to be delayed an average of 41 minutes,” the FAA notice said.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said President Donald Trump is aware of the situation.

“The President has been briefed and we are monitoring the ongoing delays at some airports. We are in regular contact with officials at the Department of Transportation and the FAA,” she said.

LaGuardia was hit first because of the high volume of flights into New York City in the morning, the airport spokesman said. As the morning went on, the FAA’s delay map began showing lengthening holdups at other major airports, including Atlanta Hartsfield, Chicago’s O’Hare, and Newark.

Newark’s delays were said to be less than 45 minutes.

The FAA subsequently said that the staffing shortages in Leesburg were also affecting traffic at throughout the East Coast.


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