Because of the reduction of traffic associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it plans to reduce the operating hours of about 100 air traffic control towers nationwide.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the FAA said the adjusted hours, which will take effect on an unspecified date later this month, would enable “continued safe operations throughout the National Airspace System while minimizing health risks to our workforce.”
The affected towers have experienced a “significant reduction” in flights, many of which have been canceled because of the pandemic, especially during the evening and at night, the FAA said. Many of the towers already are closed overnight, and during those periods, the radar facility with oversight of the area takes over in that airspace. The same arrangement will prevail under the new closure times, the FAA said.
The FAA said the adjusted hours are not expected to affect flight operations. The agency will monitor traffic volume, however, and may make further adjustments in operating hours if necessary.
“Adjusting the operating hours will further protect our employees and reduce the possibility of temporary tower closures from COVID-19 exposures by ensuring enough controllers are available to staff the facilities during peak hours,” the FAA said. “It also will enable us to allocate difficult-to-source supplies where they are most needed.”
The agency said it is working with the aviation industry to ensure that high safety levels are unaffected by the modified hours.
As of Thursday, the World Health Organization reported 2.6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and 182,000 confirmed deaths.