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Control tower closure at Las Vegas’ McCarran airport enters 6th day

Updated March 24, 2020 - 10:59 am

Reduced flight operations at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport entered a sixth day Tuesday following the closure of the air traffic control tower last week.

The tower was shuttered after a controller tested positive for COVID-19 the night of March 18. The Federal Aviation Administration closed the tower to clean and disinfect it.

Employee contact tracing, self-quarantine, and evaluation are ongoing for FAA employees tied to the control tower, according to the FAA’s website.

Flight operations are being handled by the Las Vegas Terminal Radar Approach Control, operating as the control tower’s backup.

The closure, along with reduced airline schedules due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, led to long delays and hundreds of flights canceled during the first five days, including around 600 for Southwest Airlines, McCarran’s largest carrier.

McCarran is operating at 12 arriving flights per hour for a second straight day, slightly up from the arrival rate of 10 aircraft an hour in the first four days of the closure. The arrival rate still is significantly down from the normal rate of 30 to 56 aircraft an hour, according to the FAA.

Delays for flights arriving in Las Vegas were shown on the FAA’s website to be 1 hour, 30 minutes Tuesday morning, the shortest average delay since the tower was closed.

The FAA didn’t have any new information on the controller who tested positive for the novel coronavirus or whether there was a timetable for the tower’s reopening.

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 Chris Jones, McCarran spokesman.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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