It’s day 18 of the government shutdown with no end in sight. And if you plan to fly soon, you may want to take a look at some of these recent stories about air travel in the United States. It’s... not looking good.
FAA safety inspectors are deemed ‘nonessential’
From the Associated Press:
Safety inspectors aren’t even on the job. A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said Monday that inspectors are being called back to work on a case-by-case basis, with a priority put on inspecting airline fleets.
From the Miami Herald:
Federal aviation safety inspectors haven’t been inspecting anything for the last two weeks because of the government shutdown. Deemed nonessential workers, the inspectors say they’re anything but.
Holding signs saying, “Was your airplane properly repaired and inspected today? The FAA does not know!” at Miami International Airport on Thursday, inspectors spoke with departing airline passengers about what they say is a heightened risk of aviation accidents because of their absence.
TSA agents aren’t getting paid and are calling in sick
With screeners already calling in sick in larger-than-normal numbers, U.S. airports are girding for disruptions next week if the partial government shutdown continues and Transportation Security Administration officers miss their first paycheck.
The 51,739 TSA officers, who screen bags and passengers at U.S. airports, are considered essential to security and were ordered to continue reporting for duty even though funding for their agency has been halted. In recent days the screeners have called in sick in growing numbers, according to the agency.
Well, none of the TSA agents I did talk to today were willing to go on tape. And they haven’t missed a paycheck yet, but they will Friday if this shutdown continues. And a lot of them are getting nervous about that. They say they can’t really afford to miss a couple of weeks’ pay, even if it’s going to be made up later.
There is one gentleman who told me he doesn’t agree with the president and is not willing to go without pay to get the wall. He says he wants secure borders, but he needs to be paid.
Air traffic controllers aren’t getting paid
From ABC News:
Even though full-time [air traffic controllers] are working throughout the shutdown, the existing shortage means they’ve been working six-day weeks and many hours of overtime at an “already stressful job,” Gilbert said. Their last paycheck was on Dec. 31, but the timing of their next paycheck is uncertain.
All training for ATCs has also been halted as a result of the shutdown, further disrupting the new ATCs who are desperately needed, according to NATCA.
The stress on air traffic controllers will likely cause delays
From the Atlantic:
Will some airliner crash because of the shutdown? I don’t think so. The system is so triply redundant in its safety awareness and practices that a catastrophic failure, while always possible, remains improbable. But what will happen, and no doubt already has, is that the air-travel system as a whole will further slow down, precisely because people are aware of the additional safety risk.
America’s controllers and their colleagues are hyper-safety-conscious. So under additional stress, as they are feeling now, they will add extra margin and slow things down—as they should. They will do this to protect all of us in the traveling public, because of a huge outside stressor that not a single one of them should be blamed for.
New aircraft aren’t being certified
From Avionics International:
“Some carriers are beginning to see the effects of the government shutdown – specifically regarding certification of new aircraft and the implementation of new training programs for pilots, as well as training for air traffic controllers and other aviation employees,” said a spokesman for Airlines for America. “We urge elected leaders to reach an agreement and reopen the federal government quickly.”
Pilots can’t get medical certification during the shutdown
From the AOPA:
However, as in past shutdowns, the FAA’s medical certification operations will stop, meaning pilots will have to wait until the shutdown is over to receive their medical certificates from the FAA. Aviation medical examiners may still issue certificates to qualified pilots at the time of a regular FAA physical exam. And the longer the shutdown goes, the longer it will take the FAA to work through the growing backlog.
Investigations into plane crashes are being delayed
A plane crash investigation in Michigan is on hold because of the ongoing government shutdown.
As a result, police in Saginaw County said they are being forced to rack up extra costs.
Bill Burns, 83, of Vernon, MI, a former flight instructor, died when the small plane he was flying crashed into a building over the weekend.
While Burns’ body has been carefully removed from the wreckage, the damaged plane remains on the site.
Saginaw County Sheriff Bill Federspiel has been in law enforcement for more than three decades and said he has never seen a situation like this before.
“You talk about an airplane crash, on a holiday weekend, with a government shutdown, no I haven’t,” he said.
FAA meetings about runway safety have been cancelled
To help reduce wrong surface incidents, the FAA is planning “special focus” meetings this year at various airports hosted by the agency’s runway safety action team (RSAT), but the ongoing U.S. government shutdown has postponed their start. The first meeting this year is scheduled at Nashville International Airport (BNA) on January 30. A meeting previously scheduled at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) on January 9 has been delayed due to the partial federal government shutdown.
The purpose of these meetings will be to discuss the factors that are contributing to recent wrong surface events at airports, including attempted wrong surface arrivals and departures, and “to assess if the current mitigations are adequate,” the agency said. “Wrong surface landings occur at a rate of approximately one every other day and nearly 90 percent are committed by general aviation pilots.”
President Donald Trump, arguably the most corrupt politician in American history, plans to make his first Oval Office TV address tonight about the so-called crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. All of the major networks have agreed to air the president’s propaganda, despite the fact that they denied President Obama a similar takeover of the airwaves in 2014.
President Trump’s racist rhetoric and authoritarian fear-mongering (to say nothing of his concentration camps) have created an artificial crisis that makes everyone less safe. So it makes sense that his government shutdown would do the same for air travel.
President Trump wants to constantly have it both ways. He’s ordered the IRS to start issuing refunds, despite the fact that things like that don’t happen during a government shutdown. The solution? They’re just not going to pay the IRS workers. President Trump also expects air travel at the nation’s airports is expected to continue as normal. The solution? They’re just not paying the TSA workers and air traffic controllers. Even the Secret Service agents who are currently protecting the president are getting fucked over by not getting paid.
The long and the short of it? Travel by air at your own risk during the government shutdown. The president says his shutdown is all about making Americans safer. But that doesn’t seem to include Americans flying on planes.