Pilots Association Tells Trump His Shutdown is “Threatening the Safe Operations” of Airspace System

Published on January 7, 2019 by Athena Pallas

The president of Air Line Pilots Association, International, in a letter urged President Trump to end the government shutdown, citing safety and security risks to the nation’s air travel caused by the shutdown. It is President Trump’s demand for $5 billion for his border wall, and that alone, which has kept the government in a state of partial shutdown, now into its third week. Joe DePete, the president of Air Line Pilots Association, International, wrote in a January 2 letter to Trump, according to The Hill, that “The nation’s airspace system is a complex transportation network that involves government and industry partnerships to function properly, and the disruptions being caused by the shutdown are threatening the safe operations of this network” and that the shutdown is compromising the “safety, security and efficiency of our national airspace system.”

Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials are among those government employees in the unenviable position of working without pay during the shutdown. Reports have already emerged that TSA agents are calling in sick in increasing numbers, some looking for interim jobs in order to have a paycheck while 25% of the government continues to be shut down. DePete cites, among his concerns, that there are fewer safety inspectors as well as a tremendous reduction in the oversight of airlines and aircraft. According to The Hill:

DePete wrote that safety and security problems “immediately emerge” when any of the responsibilities of the Department of Transportation or the Department of Homeland Security are “placed on pause due to a shutdown.” He added that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is suffering because fewer safety inspectors are available than are needed to “ensure the air traffic control infrastructure is performing at its peak levels of performance.” Additionally, airline and aircraft oversight responsibilities “either stop or are significantly reduced,” he wrote…DePete also noted that employees for the FAA and the Transportation Security Administration are working unpaid during the shutdown. “Based on the impacts to the aviation industry including the ALPA (Air Line Pilots Association, International) 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 added.

DePete was concerned enough to write that letter on January 2. Here we are on January 7 and Trump is still entrenched in his position, holding the funding of 25% of the government hostage to his wish for border wall funding. Reports emerged this morning that Trump plans to travel to the border with Mexico on Thursday to further attempt to make his case for his wall, which suggests that Trump does not believe there will be any change in the status of the shutdown before then. The longest federal government shutdown was a 21-day stretch during the Clinton administration, according to CNN, at a time when both houses of Congress had Republican majorities. If the current shutdown, the third so far during Trump’s presidency, continues into Saturday, it will tie that 21-day record.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.