New York – JFK Operations Impacted Over Water Leak In Air Traffic Control Tower

Air traffic in the New York area was the subject of significant disruption yesterday following a water leak at JFK airport. The incident took place in the facility’s primary air traffic control tower, with controllers having to relocate to a secondary workspace. The disruption affected hundreds of flights yesterday, with delays and diversions across the board.

New York JFK Tower Getty
Controllers returned to the primary tower after just over an hour. Photo: Getty Images

Caused by a water leak

The cause of the disruption was found to have been a ‘minor water leak’ in New York JFK‘s primary air traffic control tower. This forced employees from this facility to transfer to a secondary tower to allow them to continue working safely. It came about after an accumulation of water on the roof following rainy days earlier in the week.

The secondary facility did not allow the airport to operate to its usual capacity. As such, the FAA elected to prevent New York-bound flights from departing until at least 8 PM yesterday evening. Meanwhile, flights that were already in the air were diverted to East Coast airports ranging from Newark to Miami, according to Fox. The airport confirmed on Twitter that:

JFK controllers are operating from a secondary control tower due to a minor water leak in the main facility. Operations at this facility, combined with area weather, require more spacing between aircraft. As such, the FAA is holding most flights destined for JFK from departing.”

New York-bound departures were halted amid the disruption. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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Significant disruption

The airport tweeted the above information at 18:51 local time. Just over an hour later, at 20:02, it confirmed via Twitter that controllers were returning to their primary workstation. However, the disruption was not over at this point, with the airport confirming that:

JFK controllers are returning to the primary control tower following an earlier water leak. The airport remains open, however as a result of this, coupled with regional weather conditions, customers may experience residual delays.”

All in all, Fox reported that at least 300 flights were affected by the disruption. In terms of the extent of these delays, the US news outlet stated that arrivals were coming in an average of 30 minutes behind schedule. Needless to say, with JFK having been the US’s sixth-busiest airport by passenger traffic pre-COVID, the disruption was very significant indeed.

New York JFK from the air
Operations eventually resumed with residual delays. Photo: KenzieAbraham via Wikimedia Commons

A busy weekend

Of course, there is never an ideal time for such extensive disruption. However, this was perhaps one of the worst weekends for it to have happened, given that passenger numbers will have been higher ahead of the US’s July 4th Independence Day holiday.

Indeed, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey went as far as issuing a travel advisory notice on June 30th, to help passengers and workers prepare for the higher numbers. In this statement, which it issued on Wednesday, it explained that:

The agency anticipates more than 1.1 million passengers will travel through JFK, Newark, LaGuardia, and New York Stewart International airports from July 1st to 5th. This estimate reflects the slow yet steady growth of the return of U.S. air travel, though this anticipated volume represents a decrease of more than 41 percent compared to the same holiday weekend in July 2019.”

What do you make of this incident? Were your travel plans yesterday impacted as a result? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.