US Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) warned of dire consequences for the air travel system if thousands of FAA workers, air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents miss their second paycheck, as the ongoing partial government shutdown—now in its 34th day—shows no sign of letting up.

His remarks came during a Jan. 24 press conference at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), held to highlight the negative impacts on aviation from the lapse in federal appropriations.

“The stress on these folks is enormous,” Warner said, adding that “that level of stress is going to double next week when we come up on that second pay period and as we approach the beginning of the month when rents and mortgage payments are due.” Federal employees furloughed and working without pay are set to miss their second paycheck on Jan. 25.

“Continuing this shutdown will cripple our national aviation safety, it will cripple our system and it will provide more than a $1 trillion dollar hit to our economy,” Warner said.

National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) president Paul Rinaldi said he has started “to see routine mistakes in clearances being made because controllers are distracted,” adding that overworked and underpaid controllers are picking up spare jobs in their free time and are “coming to work stressed” and “not mitigating their fatigue.”

“If our controllers can’t come to work—if they retire, if they resign, if they become inundated with stress—we will have to reduce the amount of airplanes we can put in the sky to make it safe,” Rinaldi said.

Sen. Warner also previewed legislation he introduced earlier this week that would prevent future shutdowns from affecting air travel by automatically enacting continuing resolutions—short-term appropriations bills that maintain funding at current levels—whenever Congress and the White House fail to pass such bills through the normal process. Warner said that, under his plan, only Congress and the White House would go without pay during future shutdowns, instead of federal employees.

“I can bet you that if all of our Congressional staff and all of our White House staff had gone for 33 days without pay, this shutdown would already be over,” Warner said.

Ben Goldstein, Ben.Goldstein@aviationweek.com