Air traffic controllers protest government shutdown outside Spokane International Airport

Air traffic controllers protest government shutdown outside Spokane International Airport
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For the last month, TSA employees have been some of the faces of the government shutdown and they’re about to go without a second paycheck. But on Tuesday, day 32 of the government shutdown, brought those who are normally behind the scenes at the airport up front and center.

About a dozen air traffic controllers lined the sidewalk at the Spokane International Airport to pass out pamphlets to people going in and out of the airport. They told passengers it’s time to end the shutdown because in their words, it’s not a partisan issue, it’s a safety issue.

“Working on procedures and equipment and different things like that to keep it safe and to keep the equipment up to date — those individuals are at home not working right now, and so a lot of the work that they’ve been working on is completely halted until the government opens back up again,” said air traffic controller Mike Cashion.

Cashion told KXLY the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is working with a 30-year staffing low and no one is able to train during the shutdown, because NATCA’s training academy is closed. It takes one year to become a certified air traffic controller.

“There’s nobody training, there’s nobody going through classroom, so any of that pipeline that we’d be getting to facilities throughout the country, they’re not coming in at all,” Cashion said. “We’re a month into this shutdown and we’re going to feel it for months after this shutdown.”

The air traffic controllers at Tuesday’s demonstration said if the staffing shortage continues, we’ll see flight delays at airports across the country.

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