Chicago’s Midway Tower Goes ATC Zero

The FAA notes that the airport remains open and that operations will continue at a reduced rate. Maddy Baker/Unsplash

In FAA lingo, the phrase “ATC Zero” means an air traffic control facility is unable to offer ATC services. Chicago Center went ATC Zero in November 2014 when an FAA contract employee cut communications lines that normally kept controllers and pilots in radio contact with each other before he set fire to the center’s equipment room.

This afternoon at about 5:30 CST, the FAA Great Lakes Region public affairs contact, Tony Molinaro, informed the public that Chicago Midway tower is now ATC Zero due to at least two confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus.

The news release Molinaro sent, said, “Earlier today, several technicians at the facility (MDW) tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The air traffic control tower at Midway Airport is temporarily closing while we ensure a safe work environment for air traffic controllers and technicians. The airport remains open and operations will continue at a reduced rate until the situation is resolved.” Local news sources later said that some ATC personnel will remain at the tower and that the outlook for ATC is very fluid. Midway Tower is normally staffed by 33 air traffic controllers and 13 technicians.

The NBAA’s ATC command desk said today pilots, “shouldn’t expect any arriving or departing traffic until “possibly” tomorrow morning (Wednesday) where ATC could see a very low rate ground delay program (Think TEB [Teterboro] & LGA [LaGuardia] Runway 13 operations). It is going to be very busy airspace over Chicago, so please be patient, maybe take some extra fuel for possible holding.” The NBAA’s ATC Command desk on Wednesday reported that air traffic departing MDW now requires a pre-departure clearance. Operators should call 847-289-1326.

One source told Flying that Midway is expected to remain ATC Zero until the facility has been properly cleaned. The source said, “The FAA has hired ServePro to do the cleaning. NATCA has requested a list of all supplies that will be used to clean to make sure they are safe and will properly clean the facility. NATCA has also requested that all employees at MDW be tested for COVID-19."

Rob MarkAuthor
Rob Mark is an award-winning journalist, business jet pilot, flight instructor, and blogger.

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