Grant Mulkey of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and others with Air Traffic and pilot unions protest the government shutdown Thursday on Capitol Hill. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo
Unpaid air traffic controllers, TSA agents put pressure on the White House to re-open government
Virtually every segment of the aviation industry — from airlines to airports — is ramping up pressure on lawmakers and the White House to reopen the government, suggesting that a prolonged shutdown could seriously harm passengers and business.
Air traffic controllers and other aviation industry workers reinforced the point with a rally outside the Capitol on Thursday, saying safety suffers when air traffic controllers, baggage screeners and Federal Aviation Administration technicians and inspectors are either furloughed or forced to work without pay as the shutdown enters its third week.
Beyond the obvious concern of having an air traffic controller distracted by worries about personal finances while performing a high-stress job, many are also concerned about falling behind on everything from aircraft inspections to training the next generation of air traffic controllers, since the FAA controller academy is shuttered.
Furloughs have also hit the accident investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board, blocking potential probes of one fatal small-plane crash and at least 11 other incidents.
“We are eroding the level of safety in the system as this continues on,” said Paul Rinaldi, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. “We don’t want to be in this tug of war.”
They were joined by several members of Congress, including two Republicans — Reps. Pete King of New York and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania — who said they would vote with Democrats to reopen the government Thursday.