Transcript for NACTA Red Alert: How safe is flying during U.S. government shut down?

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The FAA is looking for experienced air traffic controllers. This is already true in normal times. Today the NACTA website shows a red alert on the National Air Traffic Controllers Association website counting the seconds of the U.S. Government shut down. It’s counting the 33 days 13 hours  38 minutes 2 seconds many of their Union members are working complimentary. Some members are driving UBER for 6 hours around their 8 hour day being part of the overall aviation safety. Air traffic controllers are serving coffee at Dennie’s restaurants before they take charge of the safety of an airline cabin every day.

For the U.S. government, they are working for free for the last 33 days. Tomorrow the second bi-weekly zero paychecks will be issued.

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NATCA represents the U.S. FAA air traffic controller workforce of dedicated and well-trained men and women. Air traffic control specialists (ATCS) work in airport control towers, terminal radar approach control facilities, and in air route traffic control centers. These employees coordinate the safe, orderly, and expeditious movement of over 140 million operations and nearly one billion aviation passengers within the National Airspace System (NAS) each year. Airports Division (ARP)

Today the 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:

Air Traffic Controllers, Pilots, Flight Attendants Detail Serious Safety Concerns Due to Shutdown 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. “