Going Direct: The Column I Hope Is Already Out Of Date

As the political back and forth was getting underway in the disagreement between Congress and the Executive Branch about border security funding that led to the government shutdown two and a half weeks ago, I decided not to write about it. I figured that like other similar funding shortfalls, this one would be a long angry weekend and then back to business as usual. That has not been the case. Now on Day 19, the shutdown is real, and there’s no sign in sight of it coming to a quick end. Again, I hope I’m wrong about that, but the signs are not good.

At this point, the impact on aviation has been minimal. But, as you’re no doubt read elsewhere, that’s in large part because essential workers still need to show up for their jobs, even though the vast majority of them are doing so without getting paid for their time. Until recently, they hadn’t missed a paycheck. Now, that’s no longer the case. Most of them have missed at least one paycheck, and for many families that depend on a single breadwinner and live month to month, that can be devastating. For many others, the buffer is there for a month or two, or maybe three. But once you get past that, the likelihood that workers will be able to weather the shortfall diminishes to almost no one very quickly. It’s just the nature of economics in 2019.

The effect on aviation, again, hasn’t been big so far. The FAA gave permission to designated examiners to give checkrides. TSA agents are required to be at work. Controllers, too. And FAA maintenance personnel. But how long will that last? How long will it be before baggage screeners go looking for a job that pays them or that others find reasons to not show up at all, which has already been happening with some TSA agents, who are calling in sick. It’s apparently not a widespread problem, yet.

It’s only been one missed paycheck so far, and the disruption to the public has been minimal. But if the shutdown goes on for much longer, that will not be the case. We’ve already seen protests and demonstrations by affected workers and legislators from both sides of the aisle and the unavailability of basic services. And just think what things might look like in another two weeks or a month when large numbers of federal workers leave or just stop showing up for that demanding job they’re not getting paid to do.

Will aviation safety suffer as a result? It’s hard to argue that it hasn’t already suffered. Safety is a web of interdependent people and systems. As soon as you start weakening key elements of that system, the chances of bad things happening rise sharply. After all, safety isn’t about stopping an accident from happening, though that’s the end goal. It’s about short-circuiting the negative elements within a system and preventing them from taking root and leading to accidents. If you’ve flown into a Class B or Class C airport when the action of landing and taking off planes was in high gear, you know how finely tuned that machine is and what amazing work our controllers do. Now imagine cutting the infrastructure that supports that machine by 20 percent…or more. It’s a dangerous situation getting more so every day the shutdown continues.

From a practical point of view, what does this mean to us pilots and airplane owners? Well, any nonessential federal government business you might need to get done will have to wait? That could result in minor inconveniences or even big hassles, and how those will be resolved once the FAA opens up shop again, we’ll have to wait and see. Again, how negatively it affects pilots and owners will probably depend on how long this circus lasts. As for manufacturers, many are already stuck awaiting the resumption of FAA inspections and approvals on products they’re currently developing, and such delays endanger not only timely certification but customer contracts, all of which can cost plane makers big bucks down the road.

Is there a silver lining? Well, your chances of getting ramp checked right now are paper-thin. Enjoy that the next time you go flying. And while we’re at it, we should remember to thank a controller for their free service.

11 thoughts on “Going Direct: The Column I Hope Is Already Out Of Date

  1. excellent article, well written, If you guys got rid of Trump, our world would be a safer place for all mankind Kevin Klause

  2. C’mon, Isabel. Are you serious? The fed’s workers will get paid retroactively when the Dems terminate their hypocritical position. Hillary, Chuckie, BHO, all made very public speeches for building some sort of barrier over the southern portions of our country. So stop your whining and get on the Trump train. #MAGA

  3. Interesting article Ms.Goyer, but as has become the norm now-days so called reporters seem to have a lack of due diligence in reporting. First as much as I empathize with any one that is working and waiting on their paycheck, yes waiting on their pay check. When is the last time there was a shut down where these federal employees did NOT get back pay for there work, including the so called non essential workers who are furloughed. Some reporting is so tunnel focused that it comes down to “How is going to affect ME just me I don’t care about anyone else”. There are some things that are bigger than just us the individuals. This shutdown is about trying to control illegal immigration. But what does that have to do with Aviation? Well, the most recent numbers tell us that illegal immigration cost this country $116 Billion per year. I am not saying at the end of tise shutdown that that cost will go away, of coarse not, but let’s just say it eliminates one half that cost. What would $58 billion do if we were to put it into say ATC or TSA. Infrastructure for Airports, runways, weather service and new software technologies for ATC. That would be a great thing for all of aviation. Life saving and life changing.
    Again I feel empathy for those of us inconvenienced by this shutdown including myself, but especially in aviation we need to look long term.

  4. Amen to that. This is a disgrace to our society as a whole. And pilots – be they GA or Cmrc’l, by nature (at least in my experience), tend to be honorable, hard working, willing to lend a hand – or even a plane – to those in need. But everybody has to eat. Not sure if you’ve read the weather, but half of the country is frozen. A fence isn’t going to heat a home.

    The author is 100% correct. Aviation accidents are almost always a progressive sequence of failures. That sequence appears to be underway in the broader perspective.

    Keep ’em flying!

  5. Temporary possible reductions in convenience may be worth it to address the actual, documented safety threat posed by uncontrolled importation of criminal aliens. Competent pilots are much better equipped to assess and adjust to temporary deprecation of our great air transport system, than ordinary, innocent citizens are to defend themselves against what may become wave after wave of desperate criminal invaders. Let’s have compassion, and provide what we can afford, without being foolish enough to risk more incidents that harm victims, and paint all immigrants with the broad brush of their criminal element.

  6. You forgot to mention that the ones showing up will get double pay when resolved. The ones staying home get full pay…where can the rest of us sign up for a great gig like this? They can easily borrow money if they did not save enough for a few weeks reserve.

  7. This is the best argument ever to revamp the political system. Congress is getting paid yet they have the power to shut down government and stop payment to thousands of other employees. The elected President wants funding for a wall. So easy to fund it. This spoiled congress won’t do it only because they don’t like him. How childish . Change the system

  8. We need the NON CARING DEMOCRATES to get off their A– and help our President secure our Borders and the safety of ALL AMERICANS, so that such a measure would not happen. I am a PILOT, and it is very important for me and my passengers to be safe, but lets think about the BIG PICTURE!

  9. The need for border security is well worth the inconvinence. I think we should all thank ATC for their sacrifice.

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