Government shutdown impacts aviation industry

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - We're nearing the end of the 20th day of the partial government shutdown. Friday would have been pay day for some 800,000 federal workers.

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But, those workers are either furloughed or they have to work - without pay in both cases. Locally, it's hitting aviation workers hard.

For the average person coming the the Toledo Express Airport to catch a flight there hasn't been any obvious change since the government shutdown. But, for those who work here to keep your safe while in the air, business has been anything but usual.

"We all have a job that we take very seriously and I don't think it's a stretch to know we don't appreciate being caught in the middle of mom and dad fighting," said James Bickley. He's a professional aviation systems specialist at the Toledo Express Airport.

He's also part of the local chapter of Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, or PASS.

James Norton is the president of the Ohio chapter. He released this statement to 13abc:

"Ohio is the birthplace of aviation. The federal workers represented by the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, (PASS) are committed to preserving the operational readiness of the world's safest and most efficient aviation system. Our dedication and professionalism is directly tied to the success of the 13.3 billion dollar economic impact that the aviation industry has within the state of Ohio. Everyday that are aviation inspectors are furloughed and not on the job crucial aircraft inspections go unperformed. The loss of these employees in the workplace incumber the goals and mission of the Federal Aviation Administration. We are asking that we end this shutdown and get everyone back to work and all employees back to getting a paycheck."

Bickley is considered an essential government employee. So, for the last 20 days he's had to do his job and what his support staff handles.

"It's very difficult to maintain our equipment without her. Basically, because she does a lot of the leg work that we actually don't know how to do because that's what her job is, but she's deemed nonessential and nothing could be further from the truth," said Bickley.

If the government doesn't reopen soon, Bickley will miss his first paycheck. He's worried about his credit.

"It means bills don't get paid. I mean they don't stop asking for money because I'm not getting a paycheck... We will be taxed at a significantly higher tax bracket than we should if they decide to lump sum us for back pay," said Bickley.

Nationwide protestors gathered Thursday chanting and marching, begging for the shutdown to end.

"I think you will lose personnel from this. We lost personnel the last time this happened, and whenever that happens you have a brain drain of knowledge and experience that is lost for no good reason ultimately," said Bickley.

Workers currently on furlough handle aircraft safety, air traffic control, pilot training and equipment repairs and replacements.

"Them not being here eventually means less planes are going to be able to fly safely. I don't understand how that's determined nonessential," said Bickley.

The people who perform routine check ups on airplanes to make sure they're safe for the sky are considered nonessential government employees. With the shutdown, they're not coming in to work to perform that job. Eventually for the general public that will mean more delays and less flights.