ATC during Shutdown: 14,000+ “Volunteers” Continue To Work The Skies Amidst Government Shutdown.

Control tower at Washington Reagan airport (Image credit: Wiki)

Here’s what’s going on in the skies over the United States.

In a single day, there is an average of 43,000 flights in the air in the US ATC (Air Traffic Control) system. The 14,000+ civilian controllers charged with directing them safely, are working without receiving their pay.

Travelers are still getting to their destinations, and there is no major impact on airlines, or schedules but as for FAA Air Traffic Controllers, things may be a bit different. Right now, no one is receiving their pay as a consequence of government shutdown.

Since late December, they have been going to work, and not being compensated for their duties. This raises concern with topics like safety, staff shortage, stressed, and unhappy Air Traffic Controllers.

Safety is a major concern. With controllers not being paid, it may cause some to not show up for work, which will cause a major shortage. Not enough Controllers may cause problems in the airway, and possibly even lead to serious consequences if something were to ever go wrong. There would be a multitude of jobs that normally would be worked by many controllers, being worked by a fewer amount.

Philadelphia International Airport TWR (Image credit: Author)

Lenny Ameika, who is a NATCA Union President in the New York Sector, an area that includes some of the biggest, and most important commercial airports in the world, such as JFK, Newark, and several military airfields including McGuire AFB and Stewart ANG, spoke on this surfacing issue. Mr. Ameika asserted that he “Doesn’t feel like the safety is being impacted that much from our perspective.” He also went on to say that “We’re safety professionals, we deal with it, we handle it well.” The safety aspect of this problem doesn’t seem to be an issue right now, but may become more serious if the shutdown were to continue.

Whilst civilian controllers are not responsible for OAT (Operative Air Traffic) , they have to ensure proper deconfliction between military and civilian air traffic in their area of responsibility, and cooperate with military ATC to ensure the safe transit across multiple airspaces. Despite the shutdown there are still operations that are being carried out, and there needs to be cooperation between military and civilian ATC to make sure these missions are carried out safely. And, according to the controllers, there has been no impact on military aviation either, and no military operations have been impacted by this shutdown through the ATC perspective.

On touching upon the topic of what they would do in the event on a short staff, Ameika’s main concern is safety. “If the system is full, with the staffing we have, the planes will have to be held on the ground, they will not be taking off. There will be delays.” Delays cause more delays, and so on. Ths short staffed ATC Tower would start impacting airlines, and eventually the economy. Mr. Ameika stated that “We’ll continue to keep the flying public safe.” This is a bold statement, because a lot of citizens are concerned about safety, and this puts into perspective where their priorities are set at, which is keeping everyone safe, and helping them get to their destination. Right now, there are no compromises, and not one expected relative to safety.

He also touched on stress, and how many of the controllers are becoming more and more stressed everyday this shutdown continues. As they come into work, knowing that they aren’t being paid, or which bills they’re going to have to pay next, or what they’ll have to sacrifice next.

He went on to talk about morale by saying “The worst part is the morale, and the added stress to an already strained Air Traffic Control system, where we’re working the busiest, and most complex Air Traffic system in the world right now.” On the industry as a whole being affected, Mr. Ameika declared that “Flight Inspections aren’t getting done, and new procedures aren’t being developed, because our support staff isn’t available.” This may lead back to the fact that not only ATC is being affected, but the Aviation Industry as a whole.


  1. As the shutdown goes on and on, all it will take is a serious aerial incident or worse, even if it’s not related to ATC, to put enough pressure on the political leadership on both sides to find a compromise to the impasse.

  2. Why everyone in American hasn’t gone on a national strike when a mobster like Trump got elected is beyond me. A fricken republican journalist showed over two years ago the public domain records proving Trump has been laundering billions for the mafia for decades.

    He used the mob to build his towers (the one that he initially used illegal polish workers to demo is a good example of this).

    He used mob concrete. For godsake one of big court cases that brought the New York mob (i think it was Goti) down used as part of the charge the $8m plus that trump paid to the mob for concrete to build Trump tower.

    When trump was building trump tower he used the mob to threaten/beat workers/contractors so they wouldn’t strike when the concrete was delivered and laid down

    (shit ten bucks they put bodies in the concrete footings of Trump Tower) .

    He is a criminal. He works for the mob (American, Italian, Russian he takes all their money). What do you think his casino in Atlantic city was. It’s hilarious that everyone thinks he is a failed business man for going bankrupt with a casino.

    The reality is that a failed business is the hallmark of a construct used to launder money. How do you think they clean the money. Dirty money comes through the front door and is used to pay outragous wages and costs to the mobsters themselves.

    As proven countless times there were several people working in the casino, employees and contractors that were criminals (look at the helicopter pilot for example).

    Billions in, billions out.

    And because he scratched your racists itch you people elected him.

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