Air traffic controllers fear for safety in sky over government shutdown

Posted at: 10/04/2013 7:06 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Air traffic controllers at the Albuquerque Sunport said the federal government shutdown puts safety more at risk.

“Any time you make a change, you're adding risk to the system,” air traffic controller Andreas Sanchez said.

He said the shutdown put his tower’s support staff on furlough, and left him working without a paycheck for now.

“When you're an air traffic controller, you're expected to do 100-percent of the job 100-percent of the time.  And now, if we have to somewhat pick up some of the slack, or take on some of the other duties, instead of putting all of our focus on making sure everyone is safe in the skies, that is frustrating,” Sanchez said.

He said there are 36 air traffic controllers who work inside the air traffic control tower at the Sunport.  They oversee all inbound and outbound aircraft, flying below 20,000-feet, within a 43-mile radius of Albuquerque.

Additionally, he said there are roughly 220 air traffic controllers who work at Albuquerque Center in northeast Albuquerque.  He said that facility oversees high-altitude flights across multiple states and that it also lost its support staff due to the government shutdown.

Sanchez said the National Air Traffic Controllers Association condemns the government shutdown and wants all federal workers to go back to work – with pay.

Once the shutdown is over, he said he expects to receive his pay in arrears.

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