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Furloughs cause flight delays across country

CHICAGO -- Mandatory unpaid furlough days taken Tuesday mostly by air-traffic controllers at airports on the East Coast and at radar facilities in California, Nevada and Texas caused cascading flight delays across the nation, federal officials said.

High winds on the East Coast as well as rain and low visibility that moved toward Chicago Tuesday night added to the increasing impact of the reduction in controllers working at air-traffic towers and radar centers, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Forty-six percent of the air-traffic delays systemwide on Monday _ for a total of 1,200 delayed flights _ were caused by staffing reductions from the furlough, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said. An additional 1,400 delays were attributed to weather and other factors, she said.

The FAA did not provide preliminary delay statistics for Tuesday. But the agency imposed ground-delay programs that prevented planes from taking off for periods of time from several airports hit hard by controller staffing cuts. They included all three New York-area airports, where delays ranged from about a half-hour to almost an hour and a half, officials said.

Other airports reporting slower operations because of controller shortages included Washington Dulles International and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

The reduced rate of takeoffs and landings per hour was felt across many parts of the country.

Starting this week, FAA controllers are required to take one unpaid furlough day during each two-week pay period, as part of the federal sequestration budget cuts.


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