Last week the East Boston Times reported about local concerns regarding Air Traffic Controllers working without pay at Boston Logan Airport during the government shutdown. The shutdown and working without pay maybe making an already stressful job more demanding an impacting safety.
With over 40,000 Eastie residents living in the shadow of the one of the busiest international airports in the nation, air traffic control safety at Logan is paramount to the welfare of the community.
As the government shutdown moves into its fifth week, aviation safety specialists across New England and the country are speaking out to warn passengers that skeleton inspection staffing is lowering safety standards at airports throughout the country.
While a handful of inspectors were mandated back to work under “emergency” conditions, many remain sidelined by the shutdown in New England-including Logan. This means more flights across the region are taking off without independent oversight by qualified aviation safety specialists at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Now, inspectors like Stephen Brown are speaking out, saying skeleton crews are not enough to keep the skies as safe as possible for passengers flying out of airports in the region like Logan.
Brown said while airline companies may conduct their own checks, the FAA safety inspectors charged with double-checking the work of those airlines and ensuring companies play by the rules have been sidelined since December 22.
Workers like Brown say that it’s a major concern for all travelers.
“The government shutdown has put a tremendous strain on the workers, but more so I believe it has put a strain on the aviation industry and its safety,” said Brown in a statement on behalf of employees belonging to the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) union. “With the government shutdown and the furlough of Aviation Safety Inspectors across the nation, this line of defense on regulatory and safety oversight has just disintegrated. Aviation Inspectors, like myself, have been forced to cease inspections on the airworthiness and operations of many commercial entities, from the large major air carriers down to the local commercial flight school.”
Brown added that the nation and the public are now in a position where the is little to no oversight on all these commercial operations, yet they are allowed to operate.
“Unscrupulous or naive operators and operations can be conducted within our system without any regulatory oversight, inspections or investigations,” he said. “While some inspectors are being recalled, we are all essential to the safety of the National Airspace System and should all be on the job for the American flying public.”
Historically, inspectors like Brown had been classified as excepted employees and would have been required to work. However, that was changed in 2013 with the nation’s second longest shutdown.
Last Monday, some of Brown’s colleagues were called back to work on an “emergency” basis, but it’s unclear how long that will last for – and when the services will return to being fully staffed.
PASS National President Mike Perrone spoke at a federal employee rally on Capitol Hill last week. “We stand with those in the labor and aviation communities to let Congress and the White House know that this government shutdown hurts the employees we proudly represent and impacts the ability of the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct important safety-related functions,” said Perrone at the rally. “Essential aviation professionals have been forced to the sidelines and their important work is not getting done. Without a fully functioning FAA, a layer of safety is missing. Let me say that again: Without a fully functioning FAA, a layer of safety is missing.”