I’ve been saying this to my family and friends since the Trump-McConnell shutdown began: when this starts to impact air traffic it will end immediately. Seems I was prescient.
On Wednesday the head of the Air Traffic Controllers Association along with the unions for pilots and flight attendants warned that the shutdown was imperiling aviation and safety and it was deteriorating each day the shutdown continued.
Washington, D.C. — On Day 33 of the government shutdown, National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Paul Rinaldi, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) President Joe DePete, and Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) President Sara Nelson released the following statement:
“We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the traveling public due to the government shutdown. This is already the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States and there is no end in sight. In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented.
“Due to the shutdown, air traffic controllers, transportation security officers, safety inspectors, air marshals, federal law enforcement officers, FBI agents, and many other critical workers have been working without pay for over a month. Staffing in our air traffic control facilities is already at a 30-year low and controllers are only able to maintain the system’s efficiency and capacity by working overtime, including 10-hour days and 6-day workweeks at many of our nation’s busiest facilities. Due to the shutdown, the FAA has frozen hiring and shuttered its training academy, so there is no plan in effect to fill the FAA’s critical staffing need. Even if the FAA were hiring, it takes two to four years to become fully facility certified and achieve Certified Professional Controller (CPC) status. Almost 20% of CPCs are eligible to retire today. There are no options to keep these professionals at work without a paycheck when they can no longer afford to support their families. When they elect to retire, the National Airspace System (NAS) will be crippled.
“The situation is changing at a rapid pace. Major airports are already seeing security checkpoint closures, with many more potentially to follow. Safety inspectors and federal cyber security staff are not back on the job at pre-shutdown levels, and those not on furlough are working without pay. Last Saturday, TSA management announced that a growing number of officers cannot come to work due to the financial toll of the shutdown. In addition, we are not confident that system-wide analyses of safety reporting data, which is used to identify and implement corrective actions in order to reduce risks and prevent accidents is 100 percent operational due to reduced FAA resources.
“As union leaders, we find it unconscionable that aviation professionals are being asked to work without pay and in an air safety environment that is deteriorating by the day. To avoid disruption to our aviation system, we urge Congress and the White House to take all necessary steps to end this shutdown immediately. “
Since then air traffic controllers have been calling in sick due to fatigue and stress which is within FAA guidelines and is therefore not a strike. This morning it was reported that there were significant flight delays at all major airports in the northeast.
Significant flight delays were rippling across the Northeast on Friday because of a shortage of air traffic controllers as a result of the government shutdown, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The delays were cascading along the Eastern Seaboard, reaching as far north as Boston. But La Guardia was the only airport that had been closed off to departing flights from other cities because it was so crowded with planes taking off and landing on a weekday morning. Delays on flights into La Guardia were averaging almost an hour and a half, the F.A.A. said.
The delays seemed to be easing late Friday morning. But the disruption was significant and could ratchet up the pressure on political leaders because it showed how the shutdown can reverberate far beyond government workers and affect a large number of people.
The F.A.A. said it was slowing traffic in and out of the airports because of staffing problems at two of its air-traffic control facilities on the East Coast, one near Washington and one in Jacksonville, Fla. Those facilities manage air traffic at high altitudes.
The agency said there had been a slight increase in the number of controllers calling in sick at those facilities on Friday morning.
It was at this point somebody, or perhaps a gang of somebodies, rattled Donnie Doll Hands cage. This afternoon Donnie caved agreeing to a short term deal to reopen government without money for his wall.
Congressional leaders and President Trump have reached a tentative deal to temporarily reopen the government and continue talks on Trump’s demand for border wall money, Capitol Hill officials said Friday.
With Trump’s approval, the pact would reopen shuttered government departments for three weeks while leaving the issue of $5.7 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border wall to further talks.