GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: FAA air traffic controllers work without pay, concerned with passenger safety

Controllers worry about air traffic, families

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- - They have been working for free for two weeks since the start of the government shutdown and now air traffic controllers are worried their lack of pay could start impacting travel and safety.
Shane Ahern is one of the people travelers trust their lives with when flying.

But as he pulled into work at Palm Beach International Airport on Tuesday, for the 15th straight day, he clocked in for free.

"I don't know how you make that decision to not come to work. It's a tough thing to do because we don't want to let anyone down," said Ahern.

In addition to letting down travelers, Ahern worries about his family. He has bills to pay, a mortgage and three mouths to feed.

The government shutdown is leaving Ahern and the hundreds of other controllers throughout the country without a paycheck, yet they are still forced to work.

"They've just been like a punching bag because this has happened. We've been furloughed already, we've been furloughed again and it just seems like we live from crisis to crisis," said Ahern.

Air traffic controllers are not just worried about their jobs up in the tower. They are also concerned about causing delays among planes landing and taking off and the safety of the very passengers who trust them to do their jobs every day.

"The minimum standard for employment is perfection. We don't want to make a mistake. There's people on the plane, I don't even like to think about stuff like that," said Ahern. "You're adding a distraction in the work place that doesn't need to be there."

Ahern said as the holiday season inches closer, he worries about increased traffic and about how he will afford holiday expenses.

"I've never seen this. I've been working for the government for 15 years, doing this job. It's been one of the most rewarding experiences ever. But you don't need to add these distractions in there," said Ahern.

When reached for comment regarding the concerns address by air traffic controllers, the FAA did not return calls or e-mails.

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