A joint statement released by unions representing pilots, flight attendants, and air traffic controllers on Wednesday raised concerns over the safety of flights during the government shutdown, citing cybersecurity concerns among others.
“Safety inspectors and Federal cybersecurity staff are not back on the job at pre-shutdown levels, and those not on furlough are working without pay,” the statement noted.
The worries about aviation cyber threats are not new. In September, the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on cybersecurity in air travel, raising concerns about threats to the growing use of technology.
“Given the rapidly growing reliance on technology as well as the implementation of future technologies such as Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) and remote air traffic control towers, it is my opinion that cybersecurity risks without question represent the preeminent and persistent threat to the continuous, safe, secure, and efficient operations of U.S. airports and the global aviation system,” said Michael Stephens, executive VP of IT and general counsel of Tampa International Airport, during the hearing.
The statement, released by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Air Line Pilots Association, and Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, also touched on broader themes of airline safety. The statement raised concerns about air traffic control staffing already being at an all-time low, the growing absences of Transportation Security Administration officers, and the lack of analyses of safety reporting data.
“To avoid disruption to our aviation system, we urge Congress and the White House to take all necessary steps to end this shutdown immediately,” the statement said.