Air traffic controllers losing morale during government shutdown


    About 40 air traffic controllers work at the tower at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City each day. (KOKH/Connor Hansen)

    Air traffic controllers are still showing up to work every day, without pay, during the government shutdown.

    Their union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, filed a lawsuit against the federal government, hoping to get its workers paid.

    That was denied by a judge on Tuesday.

    About 40 air traffic controllers work in the tower at Will Rogers World Airport on a daily basis, some of them working six days a week.

    They are responsible for guiding planes from the runway, all the way up to about 15,000 feet.

    The NATCA says it's getting increasingly difficult for workers to show up without getting paid.

    "Everyone's trying to be a professional as possible about it," said Steven Faught, an air traffic control specialist and NATCA representative for Oklahoma City. "We're showing up to work. We're doing the deal day in and day out, but morale is low. It's the not knowing when it's going to come to an end, when we're going to get paid, if we're going to get paid."

    Oklahoma City is home to the Federal Aviation Administration's training center.

    That's been closed during the shut down, cancelling any ongoing training.

    The NATCA says there are already more than a thousand less air traffic controllers working across the country than there were in 2012.

    "We're already going to be backlogged a couple of months from the couple of weeks it's already been shutdown," Faught said.

    Faught says little things like people bringing them coffee has helped morale, but now he's asking people to speak up.

    "Right now, we're asking for people to call their congressmen," Faught said. "We need the shutdown to stop, we need the government open."

    While air traffic controllers are working without pay, most of their support staff has been furloughed.


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