National air traffic controller union leader: 'Stressed' workers ‘making mistakes’ amid shutdown

National air traffic controller union leader: 'Stressed' workers ‘making mistakes’ amid shutdown
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The leader of the national air traffic controllers’ union is warning that the partial government shutdown could force "stressed out" air traffic controllers to make mistakes putting passenger safety at risk.

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“I’m getting notes from people who are saying they’re making mistakes that they hadn’t made in the 10, 15, 20 years of service that they’ve been an air traffic controller. They’re making them because they’re stressed out, because they don’t know when this is going to end and they’re distracted,” Trish Gilbert, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said Thursday on PBS NewsHour.

“We cannot have that in our system. It’s unsafe and we need to open the government, get them paid…I think we are less safe than we were a month ago.”

Funding for the Federal Aviation Administration lapsed on Dec. 22 and the partial government shutdown began, resulting in employees being furloughed or required to work without pay.

About 800,000 total federal employees have been impacted by the funding lapse.

Gilbert said the lack of funding has harmed the FAA’s ability to maintain crucial infrastructure.

“We’re seeing maintenance of the infrastructure, our radars and our technology, not being maintained at the level that it is when we’re open…and that’s not adequate as well. So all of these things add risk into a system that needs to be completely safe for the American public.” 

Concerns have arisen about air travel safety after TSA agents, who fall under the Department of Homeland Security’s purview, began working without pay and calling out sick at above average rates. 

The record-long shutdown entered its 34th day on Thursday with little movement on Capitol Hill to resolve differences between the White House and congressional Democrats. The Senate voted down two spending bills Thursday that would reopen the government.