The U.S. air traffic control (ATC) system has a serious problem: the people who keep ATC equipment running remain out on furloughs due to the government shutdown.
-Paul Rinaldi, President, National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA)
Reuters interview, October 10, 2013.
Air travelers face lengthy delays if the various radar (stations) or other equipment are out of service and no one is on duty to fix it. The system's safety has not deteriorated (yet), Rinaldi said, but ... a major disruption from equipment failures or outages is likely without the full team out there.
FAA and the NATCA are in a tough situation. Therefore, they speak in a kind of code so as not to offend the airlines or political leaders. Rinaldi, for instance, said that lack of system maintenance and repair capability 'could delay thousands of flights, particularly if there was bad weather." He meant flights would be diverted, land elsewhere, if a Terminal Radar Approach-Control (TRACON) site or airport ATC Control Tower became inoperable. FAA staffing is minimal, maintenance and inspection schedules have been stretched, but "essential personnel" -- the controllers -- remain on duty. SMAAC is more sanguine: if thousands of flights would be delayer, hundreds would be flying when the outages occurred. This is a big safety risk, not temporary problem.