Sick leave delaying flights


Incoming flights to New York's LaGuardia Airport were delayed due to staffing issues Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration said, as the USA government shutdown drags into its 35th day.

The urgency was made plain Friday as flight delays rippled across parts of the eastern USA due to staffing shortages in airports where employees, including air traffic controllers, have been ordered to work without pay. Fees and charges paid by aircraft operators provide a reliable revenue stream; so reliable that larger air traffic control companies like those of Canada and the United Kingdom issue investment-grade revenue bonds to pay for modernizing their technology and facilities-something the FAA can only dream about.

The delays appeared to be easing by Friday afternoon. The statement goes on to say the unions "are not confident that system-wide analyses of safety reporting data" are accurate due to the shutdown.

"Planes have to keep flying". They're making them because they're stressed out, because they don't know when this is going to end, and they're distracted. Overtime is occurring as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Transportation Security Administration, respectively, attempt to cope with staffers calling in sick, or-in the case of some controllers-deciding to retire, rather than continuing on without paychecks or enough fellow workers.

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O'Hare was second only to LaGuardia in flight delays Friday morning, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware.

The employee shortage in the Washington area prompted the FAA to order a ground stop at LaGuardia, according to Bloomberg.

Ground stops, especially long ones, typically can have a ripple effect nationwide, forcing bottlenecks and delays at airports that feed into other destinations.

Update - 10:45 a.m. EST: The FAA will allow flights into New York City's LaGuardia Airport after issuing a halt earlier Friday morning.

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American Airlines spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said in an email that the airline hasn't experienced significant impacts to its operations or schedule but continues to monitor the situation, working closely with the FAA.

Larry Fischer, the union rep in Lansing for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is concerned about old equipment like their radar which can't be upgraded because of the shutdown.

As Common Dreams reported, air traffic controllers, pilots, and flight attendants warned on Wednesday that flight safety is "deteriorating by the day" as public employees tasked with securing the nation's air travel system have been forced to work without pay for weeks. "For the first time in a long time, I've seen the FAA publicly say that, what we call traffic management programs, delay programs - that's basically how we control traffic, by delaying and regulating the flow - it's the first time I've ever saw them publicly say that's due to staffing".

"Due to the shutdown, air traffic controllers, transportation security officers, safety inspectors, air marshals, federal law enforcement officers, FBI agents, and many other critical workers have been working without pay for over a month".

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