JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There could be fewer air traffic controllers in 2019 due to the partial government shutdown because the training academy where new air traffic controllers train has closed.
The National Traffic Controllers Association says the shutdown is not only affecting staffing shortages, but it could result in flight delays.
"It definitely adds stress. It’s a very stressful job to begin with," said a pilot at Jacksonville International Airport who does not want to be identified.
He said air traffic controllers are hard at work without pay.
"I don’t think it’s fair that they should have this added stress of not knowing when their next paycheck comes, and then the fact that they’re already understaffed. It could create some major problems in the future," he said.
News4Jax called the FAA but after a few rings got this recorded message;
"You have reached the FAA office of communication. We are not working because of the government shut down.”
However in a tweet, the FAA said, "Air traffic control is fully operational and there is no impact to safety of FAA oversight for travelers."
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, known as NATCA, said the latest staffing data from the FAA show the agency has not made up from the hiring freeze six years ago and intends to hire nearly 1,500 employees this year, but the government shutdown complicates that plan.
"There’s a massive need for more controllers across the whole spectrum," said the pilot. Regardless of the government shutdown, employees will continue to retire. Now the question is, "Who will replace them?"
NATCA said there are fewer fully trained air traffic controllers on the job now than at any other time in the last three decades.