As the United States Government sends more than 800,000 “non-essential” employees home today due to the politically created standoff in Washington D.C., more than 2,500 of those sent packing are in fact not only essential, but critical to the safety of anyone getting on an airplane, or on the ground with a plane flying overhead.
Among those furloughed from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are Aviation Safety Inspectors. According to the Union representing the Aviation Safety Inspectors, the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists Union, its members initially believed their furlough was an error, until the FAA confirmed it.
The FAA’s Aviation Safety Inspectors are responsible for the certification and oversight of the entire aviation system in the United States, commercial and general aviation. Duties of inspectors range from monitoring pilots and flight instructors to ensuring proper aircraft maintenance is undertaken and aircraft repairs meet the required standards, to the inspection of avionics, both in the U.S. and abroad where U.S aviation interests are involved.
As the United States Government exempts employees deemed vital to public safety from furlough it is troubling that the FAA has been forced to furlough its Aviation Safety Inspectors. These inspectors are the front line for ensuring aircraft are safe to fly and in compliance with FAA regulations to take to the skies,
For those worried about the safety of aircraft in flight, the FAA’s Air Traffic Controllers are at work as usual. There is no impact to the safety of aircraft being controlled on the ground at airports or in the skies. Air Traffic Controllers fall under essential employees, however the nation’s approximately 14,000 air traffic controllers have been required to report for work without pay. How exactly the Federal Aviation Administration plans to deal with the nation’s air traffic controllers working for free while other federal employees have been ordered to not check their email, voice mail or perform any work related duties, remains to be seen.
… now if someone can just convince the federal government that Aviation Safety Inspectors are critical rather than non-essential I think we can all sleep better at night.