N.Y. flights delayed when dust sickens controllers
October 15, 1997
Web posted at: 4:01 p.m. EDT (2001 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Planes in or out of New York's three main
airports were delayed Wednesday after more than half of the
air traffic controllers were sickened by airborne dust from an overnight project to replace ceiling tiles.
The Long Island air traffic control center usually has 65
controllers on duty, but only 30 were able to work.
The reduced staffing most severely affected departures from
No delays were reported immediately in takeoffs at Kennedy
and La Guardia airports, but incoming flights to all three
were curtailed, said Frank Hatfield, air traffic manager for
the eastern region of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Hatfield said preliminary analysis indicated the dust was not
asbestos, and no one was severely injured.
The flight delays were expected to continue throughout the
afternoon. By midday, the longest delay was 52 minutes at
Newark Airport, where 95 planes left late, Hatfield said.
The sick controllers complained of irritated eyes and skin
and respiratory problems. Hatfield said a reduced force of
mostly supervisory staff was on the job; none of them had
felt ill effects from the dust.
Hoods that cover the head and pump oxygen and filter
particles from the air were brought to the center for workers
who wanted to wear them.
Hazardous-materials specialists took samples from a coating
of dust released when the ceiling was opened. They also were
running tests on the Fiberglas replacement tiles.