CLEVELAND- As the government shutdown heads into its 24th day, air traffic controllers are pleading for both sides in the battle to come to an agreement.
Tuesday, they will begin greeting passengers at airports nationwide, including Cleveland Hopkins International.
“Air traffic control is stressful enough and now you got guys working busy sessions and worrying about where the next paycheck is, instead of focusing strictly on traffic,” said William Gentry, president of the Air Traffic Controllers Association in Cleveland.
He says Tuesday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., air traffic controllers will be handing out fliers to passengers outside of the terminal.
“Trying to spread awareness on why our training, our safety, the longer we stay shutdown, the more risk that’s adding to the airspace system,” Gentry said.
Air traffic controllers will be asking passengers to contact government leaders in Washington, urging them to end the shutdown. Gentry says they are not being paid, most hiring and training has been put on hold and modernization projects are being delayed.
“All the maps that the pilots use to fly will not be updated if this continues; it’ll always be safe to fly, but the longer this shutdown lasts, the more risk that’s put out there,” he said.
“Once those red flags fly everywhere and you know the employees just, you know, aren’t gonna have it anymore, at that point, yes, something at that point has to be done,” said passenger Chelsey Howard, who was flying to Las Vegas.
Employees at the Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center in Oberlin cover 69,000 square miles of air space.
“I worry about them not getting paid and affecting people coming to work,” said passenger Tracy Preciado, on her way to St. Louis.
“These people really take our security seriously,” said Kat Safreed, who was headed to Boston.
“None of us really thought it would go this long. They’re taking loans, even though they don’t need ’em right now; they’re taking loans because they want to make sure that they have a safety net, if we miss our next paycheck,” said Gentry.