Air Traffic Controllers, Pilots, Flight Attendants Issue Scary Warning About Air Safety

Jan 26, 2019, 00:31
Air Traffic Controllers, Pilots, Flight Attendants Issue Scary Warning About Air Safety

The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights into New York's LaGuardia Airport because of a shortage of air-traffic control staff, escalating the pressure on President Donald Trump and lawmakers to end the government shutdown.

The problems are originating at New York's LaGuardia Airport where flights are being delayed due to a staffing problem, the FAA reports.

"We have experienced a slight increase in sick leave at two air traffic control facilities affecting NY and Florida".

Friday's announcement by the FAA is significant because it is the first time there has been a shortage of air traffic controllers. Philadelphia International Airport had reported departure delays of 1 hour and 14 minutes, but those have dropped back to normal operations by 11 a.m. LaGuardia delays were averaging 1 hour 26 minutes. In the case of air traffic control, about 60 other countries have de-politicized air traffic control, removing this vital function from the government budget by setting it up as a self-supporting corporate entity-generally either a government corporation or a nonprofit, private corporation.

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A security guard at the Hilliard Air Traffic Control Center told News4Jax the facility was "fully staffed" on Friday. He said the FAA adjusted to meet available staffing by, among other things, rerouting flights and putting more space between planes in the air.

Paul Rinaldi, head of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association - which is suing President Trump for freezing worker pay during the funding lapse - told the Washington Post that air traffic controllers already working 10-hour shifts have been forced to take on second jobs as waiters and Uber drivers.

They will be paid once the shutdown ends, but in the meantime, many are describing financial hardships, relying on food banks, and worrying whether they can pay the rent or mortgage. The notice, which was obtained by Gothamist and confirmed by three controllers, stated that they would now receive pay for any sick or vacation days they take during the shutdown. "We are in regular contact with officials at the Department of Transportation and the FAA".

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted that the shutdown was "pushing our airspace to the breaking point".

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"Traffic is experiencing Gate Hold and Taxi delays between 16 minutes and 30 minutes in length and increasing", the FAA website said of Orlando International. "We are already short-staffed". TSA employees at airports have been calling out sick in protest, with 10 percent of scheduled workers missing shifts last Sunday. While it's legally possible for Congress to pass a bill that would pay controllers, it's more likely that politicians will use travel delays as a bargaining chip in the ongoing battle over reopening the government.

Flight delays are just one ancillary outcome of the shutdown that have affected air travel.

"It is unprecedented", they added in a press release.

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