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How The Government Shutdown May Affect Aviation Safety

Posted by bvalaw on October 2, 2013

Washington politicians, demonstrating behavior fitting of a group of kindergarteners, has resulted in a government shut down. What does this mean to aviation? Well, how do you feel about commercial aircraft not being inspected?

Yes, the government shut down means more than you may think. According to news reports, the Federal Aviation Administration has furloughed approximately 15,000 employees, including 3,000 air safety inspectors who inspect commercial aircraft.

As is obvious, many of those who were furloughed perform critical jobs key to aviation safety. For example, many of these furloughed employees ensure the aircraft are maintained properly, perform cockpit and pilot inspections, inspect the ramp and related equipment, and conduct other mechanical inspections key to the integrity of the aircraft. There will obviously be a backlog of work when the furloughs end. The shut down also impacts on-going infrastructure projects as well as manufacturers who require certification of parts.

Air traffic controllers continue to work, although they are not being paid unlike Congress, but that should be the subject of another, much longer blog. And let’s hope no one needs emergency response crews, because those are also affected, or a post-crash inspection of wreckage to determine a cause. Need a recent example of the impact? The NTSB announced that the fatal crash of a private plane in Santa Monica, Ca., has been suspended as a result of the shut down.

Employees deemed key to public safety are exempt from furloughs, and many of the FAA’s approximately 46,000 employees are exempt. Why the 3,000 safety inspectors were not included remains a mystery. So much for safety being the first priority.