While Donald Trump is holed up in the White House tweeting about “presidential harassment” his slogan de jour, the president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International, representing 61,000 pilots, wrote a candid letter to his nibs, breaking down the reality of the situation. Basically, in human terms, the safety and security of the entire airspace system is in jeopardy and its workers are unfairly being asked to put themselves in egregious financial straits, from which they may never recover. So the pilots are asking Trump to stop the shutdown “immediately.” Here’s the letter:
January 2, 2019
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
NW Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Trump:
On behalf of the 61,000 pilots of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), I am writing to urge you to take the necessary steps to immediately end the shutdown of government agencies that is adversely affecting the safety, security and efficiency of our national airspace system.
The nation’s airspace system is a complex transportation network that involves government and industry partnerships to function properly, and the disruptions being caused by the shutdown are threatening the safe operations of this network. The government agency partners in the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have dual roles. They are both regulators and service providers. When any of their responsibilities are placed on pause due to a shutdown there are safety, security and efficiency gaps that immediately emerge.
For example, at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) there are fewer safety inspectors than are needed in order to ensure the air traffic control infrastructure is performing at its peak levels of performance. There are also airline and aircraft manufacturing oversight activities that either stop or are significantly reduced. These safety and oversight inspections will potentially allow for the introduction of safety issues that put passengers and airline crews at risk. Although the 2018 holiday season is now behind us, the number of recreational drones, or unmanned aircraft systems(UAS), has likely grown significantly in the past several weeks. The shutdown is a significant stumbling block in the FAA’s efforts to ensure the safety of the airspace from those drone operators who may be operating in an unsafe manner.
In addition to the safety oversight role, the FAA air traffic control organization is in the midst of implementing a new communications capability, called Data Communications(Data Comm). The Data Comm program has not yet reached its full implementation capability, and due to the shutdown there will be significant delays to the program. If the shutdown continues, air traffic controllers and pilots previously trained on the system will lose their proficiency due to a lack of use, and re-training will likely be required. The need to re-train will add costs and will no doubt delay the progress of this important airspace system upgrade.
Finally, at both the FAA and at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the air traffic controllers, airspace system maintenance personnel, and the airline passenger security workforce are being asked to work unpaid. They are dutifully providing safety of life services while facing increasingly difficult financial pressures to provide for those dependent on their paycheck. The pressure these civil servants are facing at home should not be ignored. At some point, these dedicated federal employees will encounter personal financial damages that will take a long time from which to recover,if at all.
Based on the impacts to the aviation industry including the ALPA membership, we urge you to take the necessary steps to immediately end the shutdown of government agencies that is affecting the safety, security and efficiency of our national airspace system.
Captain Joe DePete
Air Line Pilots Association, International
Meanwhile, in reality, a place which Donald Trump has heard of but never lived in, TSA employees are calling in sick by the hundreds with the “green flu” and major airports are being impacted. CNN:
At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, as many as 170 TSA employees have called out each day this week, Thomas tells CNN. Officers from a morning shift were required to work extra hours to cover the gaps.__Call outs have increased by 200%-300% at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where typically 25 to 30 TSA employees call out from an average shift according to a local TSA official familiar with the situation.__Union officials stress that the absences are not part of an organized action, but believe the number of people calling out will likely increase.__“This problem of call outs is really going to explode over the next week or two when employees miss their first paycheck,” a union official at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport told CNN. “TSA officers are telling the union they will find another way to make money. That means calling out to work other jobs.”
The Wall has become Trump’s singular obsession, and although he told Chuck Schumer on television that he would “take the mantle” he has not. He’s blaming everything on the Democrats and their political strategy.
The Shutdown is only because of the 2020 Presidential Election. The Democrats know they can’t win based on all of the achievements of “Trump,” so they are going all out on the desperately needed Wall and Border Security – and Presidential Harassment. For them, strictly politics!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2019
Granted, Democrats are looking at the big picture here and that is 2020, the year we take our country back from this waking nightmare. But far beyond that consideration, again, in a reality based decision context, the reason Democrats are so strenuously opposed to the wall is because it is a colossal waste of money and it’s no secret that it’s a vanity project of Trump’s. He wants another big edifice, this time on the border, with his name on it. That’s it. Let him put up $5Billion of his own (which he doesn’t have.)
Trump is cornered like a rat right now, whether he has the sense to realize it or not. He’s not going to get his wall, and every day the shutdown continues, there are going to be more call outs at TSA, airports will become increasingly dysfunctional, and there will be more letters from figures in other industries affected by this folly, you can count on that. And the key is going to be money. Once a couple of paychecks are missed, along with the food stamps being cut and the tax return checks being frozen by the IRS, Trump is going to find out that he’s not a Roman emperor. He may be afraid of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and his other deities in his media Mt. Olympus, but there is no way that this is going to go on “for months or even years.” No way in Hell.