Supported by lawmakers and leaders of major aviation trade and labor groups, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) held a boisterous rally on the grounds of the US Capitol in Washington DC on Jan. 10 to protest the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government.

Air traffic controllers represented by NATCA and systems specialists and inspectors represented by the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union who are either furloughed or working without pay repeatedly shouted “Today” when speakers exhorted them about when the shutdown—now three weeks old—should end.

“We are not getting paid right now. Our pay stubs went out today and the majority of our people had zero net pay on their pay stubs,” Brian Shallenberger, a controller at the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center in Leesburg, Virginia, told ATW.

“The morale is bad,” Shallenberger added. “Today, when everybody could see they got no paycheck for this past pay period—I can just see it going downhill.”

The funding shutdown that started Dec. 22, 2018, over a security wall sought by President Donald Trump for the US-Mexico border has stopped FAA employees from being paid and also suspended training at the agency’s air traffic control academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, during a controller staffing shortage.

“We implore Congress and the White House to end this shutdown,” NATCA president Paul Rinaldi, who kicked off the rally, said. “Every day this shutdown continues it has negative consequences on the national airspace system and the employees. These are real people with real consequences.”

Leading Democrats were among the lawmakers who addressed the crowd, including Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; and Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Washington), who chairs the House Aviation Subcommittee. But they were joined by Republican Reps. Peter King (R-New York) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania), who said they oppose the shutdown and will vote with Democrats on legislation to reopen the government.

Other speakers represented airlines, airports, flight attendants and the unmanned aircraft systems industry. General Aviation Manufacturers Association president and CEO Pete Bunce warned the shutdown could have cascading effects for industry by sidelining FAA certification and flight standards employees. Should it drag on, manufacturers expect an impact of millions of dollars on first-quarter revenue.

“We as manufacturers have had to slow down our activity significantly, and as this shutdown continues, week after week, it is having a tremendous impact that will ultimately result in our having to lay off employees,” Bunce said.

Shallenberger said that as “excepted” employees, controllers are required to work during a furlough. He estimated that 15%-20% of other federal employees at the Washington Center who are involved in quality control and procedures are sidelined at home on furlough.

“People are nervous,” Shallenberger said. “You’re still having to come into work; you’re still having to put gas in your car to come to work. You still have to pay daycare and come to work. People just don’t know when their next paycheck is going to be.”

Bill Carey, bill.carey@aviationweek.com