The main air traffic control center for the DC area in Leesburg, Viginia was evacuated this evening and flights are snarled throughout the region.
Baltimore, Dulles, and National airport all have had ground stops. Flights haven’t been taking off for the area, and departing flights have been delayed a couple of hours. The situation is ongoing.
The facility was evacuated after people inside complained of fumes.
The fumes originates from a construction site and “permeated the control room,” the FAA said in a statement. It said the facility, which directs high altitude flights over the region, passed airborne flights off to other air traffic control facilities for “safe handling.”
“We are actively working to fully ventilate the facility,” the FAA said.
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Reportedly adhesive from a roof repair leaked into the attic of the building and made its way into the control room through the air conditioning system. Controllers suffered “burning eyes, sore throats, vomiting.”
Washington Center in Leesburg one of the busiest air traffic facilities in the country covering the mid-Atlantic and above.
As I pointed out earlier in the year US air traffic control was completely unprepared for the next system outage.
Less than half the recommendations of the major Chicago outage have been implemented. And while the FAA has contingency plans for outages, controllers haven’t been fully trained in those plans. You’d think that the FAA could switch from one control center to another in the event of a failure (“an ATC-Zero event”) but according to the DOT Inspector General neither ATC software nor communications links make that feasible.
Hopefully the system can be brought back online to full capacity quickly.