Is Washington playing Russian roulette with airline safety?

Is Washington playing Russian roulette with airline safety? Is Washington playing Russian roulette with airline safety?

January 28, 20192 min read
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The government shutdown that is finally over had some worrying near the end and for good reason. Air traffic controllers, the very professionals who keep planes in the air and at a safe distance from each other had gone for more than four weeks without getting paid.


Exhausted, demoralized and depleting ranks were probably the near-perfect storm for an imminent accident or disaster.  


Luckily, and thankfully, these dedicated professionals rose to the occasion and ensured safety was still the priority. Often, working even while the very equipment and technology they rely on was not being serviced.


But as the shutdown takes a break for three weeks and everyone is made whole with back-wages and paychecks – does America need to rethink the potential risks and consequences to having the staff who are essential to safety across the entire country go without pay and benefits during a political dispute?


The consequences of a major airline crash are huge economically and in terms of lives lost.


  • So, can the nation’s air traffic controllers be exempt form the impacts of a government shutdown?
  • Who would have been liable if an accident did occur?
  • Are aviation, customs and our nation’s airports not considered essential and therefore worthy of being paid during a shutdown?
  • And how close did we come to a disaster?


While we wait and watch for a solution in Washington over the coming weeks, there are still a lot of questions to be answered, and that’s where the experts from the University of Rochester can help.


David M. Primo is the Ani and Mark Gabrellian Professor and an associate professor of political science and business administration at the University of Rochester. He is an expert in airport safety and security and a professor at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York, and can comment on airline safety and passenger impacts amid airports such as Laguardia International restricting air travel due to the government shutdown. David is available to speak with media regarding the economic effects of the shutdown – simply click on his icon to arrange an interview.


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  • David Primo
    David Primo Ani and Mark Gabrellian Professor, Associate Professor of Political Science and Business Administration

    Primo is an expert in American politics, campaign finance, corporate political strategy, corporate social responsibility & fiscal policy.

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