The government shutdown is certainly putting a damper on travel plans. Not only has the shutdown forced the temporary closure of several National Park Service-run landmarks and national museums, but it has rendered air travel unsafe, as nearly one-third of the Federal Aviation Administration employees have been furloughed as a result of the political standoff. This mass furlough includes nearly 3,000 aviation safety inspectors responsible for ensuring that airlines maintain safely functioning planes and adhere to federal regulations. “There is no one doing this job now,” Kori Blalock Keller, a spokesperson for Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union, told Forbes. “A lot of times, our inspectors catch little things and correct them before that plane takes off again,” he added. In the meantime, airlines will be policing their own operations.
While FAA officials note that there should be little notable change in Transportation Security Administration and air traffic control operations, many of these employees are working without pay and several air traffic control trainers and other vital support staff specialists have been furloughed. “This is akin to a surgeon performing an operation without any staff to prep the room, clean the equipment or provide support during the surgery,” Paul Rinaldi, President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said in a statement.
“Safety is our top priority,” the FAA announced in a recent statement, “If the furlough extends longer than a few days, we will incrementally begin to recall specific employees back to work to meet continuing safety needs.” That awaits to be seen. In the meantime, airline passengers lives are at risk.