With furlough of air safety inspectors, concerns soar
With 3,000 FAA inspectors not on the job, some industry analysts said a short-term shutdown could just be an annoyance, but longer term, it could become increasingly difficult. (Source: CNN)
(CNN) - FAA safety inspectors were among the 800,000 federal employees furloughed in the government shutdown. There's concern about how that will impact airlines.
Aviation Safety Inspector Stephen Ferrara got an email the morning of the government shutdown Oct. 1, telling him his job - inspecting safety systems for planes and pilots - has been furloughed until further notice.
"They basically told us to go home, and we will call you when we need you back," he said.
More than 15,000 federal aviation administration employees have been furloughed, a third of the FAA's workforce. This includes almost 3,000 air safety inspectors who are not reporting to work and not getting paid for now.
Loretta Alkalay was an attorney for the FAA who now teaches aviation safety. With 30-plus years at the agency, she's been through shutdowns before.
"I was shocked that they would furlough inspectors. ... I didn't believe it," she said. "I had to check with somebody in my office because it was so unheard of to consider inspectors not essential. It's really like not having food safety inspectors, product quality inspectors. It's really, really very surprising that the government allowed that to happen."
Ferrara warns this leaves no oversight of the air safety system in the country.
"Because we are not working, the system is going to start to break down, and it's going to happen exponentially," he said.
Some industry analysts said a short-term shutdown could just be an annoyance, but longer term, it could become increasingly difficult.
"If they're out for three weeks, they may be six weeks away from performing those safety surveillance tasks, and that has to concern all of us at least a little," said Wayne Plucker, aviation analyst with Frost & Sullivan.
An FAA spokeswoman declined the request for an interview, but in a statement said that "safety is their top priority… and if the furlough extends longer than a few days, we will incrementally begin to recall specific employees back."
But for Ferrara, that doesn't add any comfort. "There's a certain amount of fear, and just you don't know what the next step is," he said.
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