Pilots Write Letter Urging President Trump to End Shutdown

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Yesterday, we learned that the government shutdown is forcing TSA agents to make significant callouts in search of cash-paying jobs to cover their living expenses while they lack an incoming paycheck. The result of these TSA agent callouts have not yet been felt, but officials say they could diminish the security measures in airports and cause wait times to increase.

The safety and security risk of a government shutdown to travel safety is not just immensely clear to the public and federal employees affected by the shutdown, but to airline pilots, too.

On January 2, 2019, Captain Jo DePete, the President of the Air Line Pilot Association, International wrote a letter to Donald Trump imploring the president to stop the shutdown.

Writing on behalf of 61,000 pilots, DePete began with, “I am writing to urge you to take the necessary steps to immediately end the shutdown of government agencies that is adversely affecting the safety, security and efficiency of our national airspace system.”

DePete first points out the safety risks of a government shutdown:

“At the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) there are fewer safety inspectors than are needed in order to ensure the air traffic control infrastructure is performing at its peak levels of performance. There are also airline and aircraft manufacturing oversight activities that either stop or are significantly reduced.”

He adds that without top safety inspections, travelers and airline crews are at significant risk during this time.

Pilots checking flight information on digital tablet. (Photo via iStock / Getty Images Plus / william87)

There is even a mention in the letter of the safety risks that recreational drones have on airspaces, and how it is the FAA who monitors these unmanned crafts.

DePete also mentions a new program called Data Communications which FAA was in the midst of implementing when the shutdown happened.

“The Data Comm program has not yet reached its full implementation capability, and due to the shutdown there will be significant delays to the program. If the shutdown continues, air traffic controllers and pilots previously trained on the system will lose their proficiency due to a lack of use, and re-training will likely be required,” DePete said.

“The need to re-train will add costs and will no doubt delay the progress of this important airspace system upgrade.”

He lastly points out the struggle that TSA and FAA employees face at this time as they are asked to work unpaid.

“They are dutifully providing safety of life services while facing increasingly difficult financial pressures to provide for those dependent on their paycheck. The pressure these civil servants are facing at home should not be ignored. At some point, these dedicated federal employees will encounter personal financial damages that will take a long time from which to recover, if at all,” DePete wrote.

He sums up his letter by saying, “Based on the impacts to the aviation industry including the ALPA membership, we urge you to take the necessary steps to immediately end the shutdown of government agencies that is affecting the safety, security and efficiency of our national airspace system.”

DePete and the Air Line Pilot Association, International aren’t the only ones voicing their concern over the shutdown.

The National Air Traffic Controller Association (NATCA) told Business Insider that air traffic control centers are already understaffed and with the shutdown, air traffic controllers are not getting paid.

“This staffing crisis is negatively affecting the National Airspace System, and the shutdown almost certainly will make a bad situation worse,” Paul Rinaldi NATCA’s president said in the same statement. “Even before the shutdown, controllers have needed to work longer and harder to make up for the staffing shortfall.”

“If the staffing shortage gets worse, we will see reduced capacity in the National Airspace System, meaning more flight delays,” he said. “A lack of adequate staffing also hurts the FAA’s ability to develop new technology and modernize the system, and controllers also don’t get the amount of time they need for training.”

Donald Trump has yet to respond to the concerns by the NATCA or DePete’s letter. Instead, he continues to tweet about his proposal for the wall, one of the main causes of the government shutdown, and instead ignores the safety and security risk this government shutdown is putting on federal employees and U.S. citizens traveling throughout the country.

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