NATCA President Paul Rinaldi  Testified Before a Hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Aviation Subcommittee ("Putting U.S. Aviation at Risk: The Impact of the Shutdown")

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi testified yester day on a panel before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I), Subcommittee on Aviation, that the recent 35-day government shutdown was terribly harmful because it eroded the layers of critical elements necessary to support and maintain the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS). Rinaldi said, "Even though the NAS is safer now than it was during the shutdown, it is less safe today than it was before the shutdown began."

The panel included Professional Aviation Safety Specialists ( PASS) National President  Mike Perrone, Airlines for America (A4A) President Nicholas Calio, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA ( AFA) International President  Sara Nelson, and General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) President Pete Bunce.

 Paul's Opening Statement:  Click Here for Video | Click Here to for Transcript
Paul's Full Written Testimony as Submitted: Click Here for Testimony

Rinaldi offered examples about how the NAS is less safe because of the shutdown. One such example was when he explained that the FAA now has delayed for 90 days the implementation of new technological enhancements that would help prevent wrong surface landings at eight additional major airports. Each year, there are more than 200 events across the NAS in which an aircraft lands, or attempts to land, on the wrong runway, on a taxiway, or at the wrong airport entirely. Just last week, at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), one of six airports where this new technology is already operational, a flight was cleared to land on Runway 35, but aligned itself on Taxiway E, parallel to the intended runway. Rinaldi described how this system alerted the local controller who immediately instructed the pilot to execute a go-around. The pilot overflew two commercial airplanes on the taxiway by 600 and 700 feet respectively on the go-around. 
Prior to the shutdown, the FAA had scheduled implementation of this new technology by March 31, 2019, at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), Honolulu Control Facility (HCF), McCarran International Airport (LAS), Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW), Memphis International Airport (MEM), Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD), and Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). That implementation has now been delayed until June 30, 2019. 

In his testimony, Rinaldi further described how the shutdown harmed the thousands of aviation safety professionals that he represents and exacerbated the air traffic controller staffing crisis. " Mr. Chairman, the pressure and the extra stress that was inserted into our National Airspace System because of the shutdown was intense. We were getting text messages from controllers with 17 years worth of experience making mistakes on routine clearances, climbing airplanes into paths of other airplanes at the same altitude, because they were distracted because they were thinking about their mortgage, they were thinking about school payments, car payments, and food. They were thinking about the shutdown. They were fatigued. They were not focused at the task at hand. We had controllers going to work every day, driving Ubers, waiting on tables to take care of their family. We have worked really hard to mitigate distractions and reduce the fatigue in our work environment, but this shutdown increased fatigue and inserted all types of distractions in our control rooms."
Rinaldi continued, "Add insult to injury, our workforce still has not been made financially whole. This is completely unacceptable, inserting this type of risk into our system. As you know, we're at a 30 year low of fully certified controllers in the system, of which 20 percent of them can retire at any moment. If 20 percent retire tomorrow because we look at another shutdown, we will not be able to run the volume of traffic we do today. It takes three to five years to mentor an apprentice to become fully certified controller. The FAA had to stop their hiring and shut down the training academy because of this shutdown. Our staffing crisis has been exacerbated by the shutdown. We need to make sure this never happens again."

Rinaldi also thanked House T&I Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (Ore.) and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Rick Larsen (Wash.) for introducing the Aviation Funding Stability Act of 2019 (H.R. 1108). "It would provide a stable, predictable funding stream for the NAS by preventing government shutdowns from affecting the FAA. NATCA strongly supports this legislation. "

Rinaldi was questioned by members from the committee. Click the links to see his answers to their questions below:

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