Aviation safety inspectors among those furloughed in shutdown - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Aviation safety inspectors among those furloughed in government shutdown

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Some 60 to 70 aviation safety inspectors based at Honolulu International Airport are among those who have been furloughed due to the partial shutdown of the federal government.  

Nationally, nearly 3,000 inspectors in the Federal Aviation Administration were furloughed. The inspectors are represented by the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union, also known as PASS.

The inspectors are responsible for the oversight of the nation's aviation system, performing surveillance of aircraft, pilots, and domestic and foreign repair stations. They also do in-flight cockpit inspections, as well as inspections of aircraft and procedures when planes are on the ground.

"When you drive your car, and you see a policeman on the side of the road, you have a tendency to slow down. It's the same thing as we as aviation safety inspectors. When we're out there doing surveillance and oversight, the level of safety rises," said Mel Kahalehoe, the local representative for PASS.

"The furloughing of aviation safety inspectors who police our skies and ensure the safety of the flying public is a risky game," said PASS National President Mike Perrone. "There is no doubt that the removal of the rigorous oversight performed by these employees on a daily basis will have a significant impact on this country's aviation system."

According to Kahalehoe, the Hawaii-based inspectors cover all airports in the state, as well as U.S. territories in the Pacific, including Guam, Saipan, Samoa and Tinian.

"I can't really say whether it diminishes the safety, but that's the reason why we're out there, is to perform oversight, and when we do find a violation against the federal air regulations, then we take action as far as violations. And right now we're not out there to do that," he said.

There are three managers who are in the Honolulu office to respond in case of emergencies.

Travelers who spoke with HNN were surprised to learn that the inspectors were among those furloughed by the shutdown, but were also hopeful that the airlines, their pilots and crews will continue making sure that it's safe to fly.

"All the people that work on the airplane are going to care, too, because their lives are at stake. So they'll have their eyes open," said Kendall Schmidt.

"I guess that makes me a little bit uneasy, but hopefully all the airlines are making sure everything's good to go," said Kawika Shoji.

The local spokesperson for the FAA was among those who have been furloughed, but another FAA spokesperson, Kristie Greco, said, "If the furlough extends longer than a few days, we will begin to recall as many as 2,500 employees back to work incrementally, including safety inspectors and technical support staff, depending on need."

Greco was unable to comment on how many local workers could return to the job. The department has 7,000 workers nationwide.


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