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McCarran Control Tower Reopens a Week after COVID-19 closure

Thursday, March 26, 2020   /   by Ken Couture

McCarran Control Tower Reopens a Week after COVID-19 closure

The air traffic control tower at McCarran International Airport reopened Wednesday morning, a week after being shut down by the Federal Aviation Administration after a controller tested positive for the novel coronavirus.


Staffing should increase throughout the day at the tower, according to the FAA.

The weeklong closure, along with reduced airline schedules due to the coronavirus pandemic, led to long delays and hundreds of flights canceled during the first six days of the closure, including around 700 for Southwest Airlines, McCarran’s largest carrier.


Southwest is set to operate 80 of a scheduled 201 flights out of McCarran on Wednesday, according to Dan Landson, Southwest spokesman.


Flight operations were handled by the Las Vegas Terminal Radar Approach Control, operating as the control tower’s backup, while the tower was shuttered.


McCarran was back to near-normal flight rates Wednesday afternoon after starting the day operating at 12 arriving flights per hour, slightly up from the arrival rate of 10 aircraft an hour in the first four days of the closure. The arrival rate still was significantly down from the normal rate of 30 to 56 aircraft an hour, according to the FAA.


No delays were shown for flights arriving in Las Vegas Wednesday afternoon, after the FAA’s website showed delays to be averaging 3 hours, 13 minutes Wednesday morning.


The FAA didn’t have any updated information on the controller who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.


Flight restrictions were put into place within a 5-mile radius of McCarran beginning March 19, following the positive test and reduced operations at McCarran, with those restrictions slated to last until Friday, the FAA’s website shows.


Vendors at McCarran began limiting hours amid the decrease in passengers caused by coronavirus concerns. Outlets will be open for passengers, but at decreased hours, according to the airport.


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