Today in Security - Aviation Groups Cite Major Effects from Shutdown

Today in Security: Aviation Groups Cite Major Effects from Shutdown
​​​​On 23 January, three aviation organizations issued a statement over their growing concern for air traffic controllers, flight attendants, pilots, and the public at large while the partial U.S. government shutdown is now at 34 days with no clear resolution 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,” the statement said. The letter was signed by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the Air Line Pilots Association, and the Association of Flight Attendants.

The shutdown, the associations said, could also result in a negative feedback effect on future staffing, which for air traffic control facilities is already at a 30-year low. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a hiring freeze and closed its training academy in response to the shutdown.

“Almost 20 percent of [certified professional controllers] are eligible to retire today,” the letter said. “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.”

A growing number of TSA officers began calling in sick while others quit, citing the personal financial cost 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,” the groups said.

Since the shutdown, essential government employees have worked without pay for more than a month, and the effects of a dwindling staff include security checkpoint closures and longer lines for passengers trying to catch their flights. Speaking from Reagan National Airport​ on 24 January, U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tm Kaine​ (D-VA) touched on the financial, emotional, and security impacts seen in the aviation industry.