One of the more troubling effects of the US government shutdown (which has been going for longer than a month now) is a decline in air safety.
This is because many of the team members that we take for granted when flying, from air traffic controllers, TSA officials, federal air marshals and more, are all currently working without pay.
The situation is causing pilot unions and other cabin crew to raise alarm bells and demand the situation be resolved as quickly as possible.
“We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the traveling public due to the government shutdown, 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.” – Joint statement from the ATC, Pilot and Cabin Crew unions.
Many of the essential services that airlines use, such as air traffic control, security, immigration and more, are funded solely by the government. With the government being shut down, these staff members don’t get paid.
And it is not just the staff that are a problem but the equipment too. Maintenance on radar systems, data analysis on flight incidences and more are at an all-time low or even suspended. What happens if an essential item breaks that monitors air safety? Who will repair it, or authorize the payments to repair?
Why do they feel the situation is so dangerous?
Essentially, what these unions are saying is that without the required minimum level of staffing in each of these areas, or perhaps if these staff members are stressed out because they can’t make payments, then safety overall is compromised. In fact, if there was a safety issue or event that occurred during this shutdown period, that would be catastrophic for the government.
“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,” – Union statement
And these staffing issues won’t be easily fixed after the shutdown. If you had a family and if you were at risk of not getting paid for over a month, would you work in that job again? And the government won’t be able to replace these workers either, as the FAA academy that trains them is also shut down during this period.
“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.”
This plunging morale in airports and air traffic control centers is starting to take effect, with more delays, felt across the nation. The unions closed off the statement with a request to the White House and the US Government to resume normal operations.
What do you think? Do you feel safe to fly during this period?