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JFK airport's air-traffic control tower closed temporarily after an FAA technician tested positive for the coronavirus

Business Insider logo Business Insider 3/20/2020 Thomas Pallini
a plane sitting on the tarmac at an airport © Mark Lennihan/AP

The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily closed the air-traffic control tower at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after a technician tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement issued on Friday. The main control tower has since reopened.

Arrivals and departures were not affected as New York's primary gateway remained open with air-traffic controllers moving to a secondary location on the airport property to continue facilitating flight operations.

The airport, designated as one of 13 approved entry points by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the latest in a string of airports to be affected by air-traffic control tower closures. Positive cases of the novel coronavirus temporarily halted traffic at Chicago's Midway Airport and Las Vegas' McCarran Airport earlier in the week, causing flight delays across the country.

The affected technician hadn't visited the tower since March 16, during which the FAA said he stayed briefly and didn't visit the tower cab where air-traffic controllers talk directly with aircraft. Despite limited contact with the critical areas of the tower, the FAA was cleaning the entire facility to protect its employees. 

JFK's control tower is located directly above Terminal 4, the shared-use international arrivals building primarily occupied by Delta Air Lines. In addition to the control tower, the facility features office space and a ramp tower on a lower level which coordinates the movement of aircraft that are parking at Terminal 4.

The FAA implemented a ground delay program early Friday morning in an attempt to limit the number of flights at the airport as technicians moved from the control tower to their temporary facilities. The program was lifted later in the morning with the airport no longer reporting any delays or FAA-mandated ground stops.

FAA technicians assigned to JFK are not only responsible for facilitating arrivals and departures into JFK Airport but also controlling a ring of airspace that extends into Queens, Brooklyn, and Nassau County. Nearby LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport are not affected by the temporary closure. 

WATCH: There's a sick person on my flight -- what do I do? (Provided by Fox News)

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