Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) president Joe DePete has called on US congressional leaders and President Donald Trump to end the partial shutdown of the federal government, saying the standoff “is adversely affecting the safety, security and efficiency of our national airspace system.”

In a Jan. 3 letter, the new ALPA chief warned that there are currently fewer safety inspectors than needed to ensure the air traffic control (ATC) infrastructure is operating at peak performance. In addition, certain airline and aircraft manufacturing oversight activities have either stopped or have been significantly reduced, including FAA’s ability to protect the airspace from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), he said.

DePete said the shutdown, which began Dec. 22, would also cause significant delays to FAA’s implementation of the Data Communications (Data Comm) program, which provides a digital communications link between pilots and ATC personnel. An extended shutdown could also cause controllers to lose their proficiency and would require retraining, which will add costs and further delay the upgrade, he said.

The ALPA chief also said civil servants, including air traffic controllers, airspace maintenance personnel and the airline passenger security workforce, are facing “increasingly difficult financial pressure” and need to be paid before they “encounter personal financial damages that will take a long time from which to recover, if at all.”

Roughly 18,000 FAA employees have been furloughed as part of the shutdown, meaning they cannot work or receive pay unless backpay is authorized later by Congress. Not included in the shutdown are essential activities, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Customs and Border Protection (CPB) and the ATC system. Those employees are not paid during a shutdown, but typically receive backpay when the full government resumes operations.

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Ben Goldstein,