Posted 10 months ago on Oct. 11, 2013, 2:29 p.m. EST by GirlFriday
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The US air traffic control system is close to hitting a "yellow" alert level as people who keep radar and other equipment running remain out on furloughs due to the government shutdown, the head of the controllers union said.
Passengers would face lengthy delays if a radar unit or other equipment broke down at a major US airport because no one is on duty to fix it, Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), told Reuters news agency.
The system's safety has not deteriorated, Rinaldi said. But "we're getting to yellow" in facing a major disruption from equipment failure that could affect thousands of flights, particularly if there was bad weather. Yellow indicates caution and is not based on a risk scale used by aviation regulators.
"The impact will come as we continue to run this system without our full team out there," he said. "We're not doing maintenance on radar equipment" or communication equipment.
"As that breaks down, that will limit the amount of airplanes we put in certain areas," he said.
Rinaldi's statements on the 10th day of the government shutdown coincided with a rally in Washington, DC, by aviation groups raising concern about the Federal Aviation Administration's continuing furloughs of "non-critical" staff.