Staffing issues at 2 air traffic control centers cause delays at RIC

Staffing issues at 2 air traffic control centers cause delays at RIC

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Several airports in the Northeast are experiencing delays due to a staffing shortage of air traffic controllers, which is impacting flights in and out of Richmond International Airport.

According to the FAA, shortly after 10 a.m. Friday LaGuardia, Newark and Philadelphia airports all reported delays due to staffing issues.

As of 10:45 a.m. Friday, LaGuardia showed flights behind schedule up to one hour and 15 minutes, Newark up to 45 minutes and Philadelphia up to an hour.

Richmond International Airport has several flights to and from these airports on a daily basis.

“I don’t recall ever seeing ‘staffing’ as a reason for delay on the FAA air traffic control website,” said Troy Bell, RIC spokesman. “This is very unusual.”

FAA lists delays at Newark and LaGuardia airports due to "staffing" (Source: FAA)
FAA lists delays at Newark and LaGuardia airports due to "staffing" (Source: FAA) (FAA)

“I was apprehensive when I got to the airport this morning because it was clear that everything was backed up and that things could go either way," said Amanda Carter, who was delayed flying from LaGuardia to Richmond International.

Passengers said they didn't realize what was going on until they saw the news.

“The screens of the TVs were on and kind of said what was going on with all the airports,” said Rich Pagano, a musician with Early Elton Trio. “That the air traffic controllers were either calling in sick or they didn’t have enough of them.”

A statement by the FAA reads:

“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. The public can monitor air traffic at fly.faa.gov and they should check with airlines for more information.”

According to Bell, flights were not stopped from flying to and from these airports, rather delayed until air traffic controllers could clear them for landing and takeoff.

"It is concerning,” said John Conte, with Early Elton Trio. “It's a hard-enough job as it is. They're overworked and underpaid from what I understand."

The delays had Conte and Pagano scrambling to get to The Tin Pan for a gig Friday night.

“We’re running to get on stage, get sound, get something to eat and then do the show,” Pagano said.

But running late wasn’t the only downside.

“We hit a lot of turbulence,” Carter said. “They actually said they could not enter into clearer airspace because there weren’t enough air traffic staff to manage the space above us. We were forced to stay in a more turbulent airspace.”

“I actually found it to be a very uncomfortable flight,” Pagano added.

FAA spokesman Gregory Martin said the staffing problems were at air traffic centers in Jacksonville, Florida and a Washington D.C. center that controls high-altitude air traffic over seven states. Martin said safety is being maintained during a period of “minimal impacts” on travel.

As of 5 p.m. RIC showed several delays to and from LaGuardia airport throughout the day; averaging anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours.

Bell encourages fliers to check their flight status before heading to the airport for any flights Friday and this weekend.

These delays come on day 35 of the government shutdown. Friday afternoon President Donald Trump agreed to reopen the government temporarily for three weeks.

Copyright 2019 WWBT. All rights reserved.