Local air traffic controllers feeling effects of government shutdown

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COLUMBUS — Mike Weekley says they’ve tried to ignore the noise. But it hasn’t been easy.

As one of 33 fully-trained air traffic controllers serving in Columbus, Weekley and the other men and women working to ensure safe airspace have been working 10-hour days, six days a week.

And for the past two weeks, they haven’t been paid.

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Weekley, who is also the local president for NATCA, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said he and his colleagues have tried to keep what weighs on their minds in the break room inside of the tower’s operations.

“So that’s just added stress,” Weekley said. “Just like anybody we still have the bill come in... We have to figure out how to support (our families) and still being a professional and make sure safety is a priority.”

Weekley said while there are currently 33 fully trained air traffic controllers in Columbus, he says that figure was closer to 53 six years ago.

He said that retirements and transfers have played a role in reducing the staff there.

But federal budgets and government shutdowns he says have also helped create a chilling effect on his industry that has a huge task of keeping airspace safe.

The impasse between the Trump and Washington lawmakers has entered its 18th day.

President Trump is expected to speak to the nation Tuesday evening in a nationally televised address.

“It must end,” Weekley said. “In the meantime, we will try to remain vigilant and make sure that passengers get safely from A to B.”