Columbus air traffic controllers keep working through shutdown

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Their job is to protect the passengers in the skies, but the partial government shutdown has thousands of air traffic controllers working without pay or furloughed. 

There are 41 air traffic controllers at John Glenn Columbus International Airport. Three are furloughed, eight are still in training and 33 that must come into work without getting paid. 

“There are aircraft mechanics, aircraft certification specialist, there’s engineers, architects, air traffic controllers, support specialist and we all work together as a whole to make the national airspace system run safely. It’s the busiest in the world. When you start furloughing pieces of those, you’re peeling away layers of safety,” said Mike Weekley, the local president of NATCA.

Mike Weekley has been an air traffic controller at John Glenn International Airport for six years. He is one of the thousands of federally employed workers that are forced to come to work during the partial government shutdown.

“We’ve been working six-day weeks, 10 hour days with the uncertainty of when we are going to get paid and how long it’s going to go on,” said Weekley.

Weekley says the job of an air traffic controller is stressful tasked with protecting planes in the sky and workers are now facing additional stress. 

“We still have to support our families, the electric bill still comes, the mortgage payment is still due.”

Weekley who has two daughters and a wife, is getting through it by dipping into their savings account. But fears that soon could run out.

“I’ll still be back in the morning. We’ll come in and make sure that the flights are safe and the passengers and the flying public get to their destinations. And just keep rolling on with the uncertainty of when it’s going to end.”

Weekley and some others will receive back pay once the government reopens.  As far as the men and women who are furloughed or in training he’s not sure. 

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