Halted crash investigations. Delayed training for air-traffic controllers. No federal certification to ensure the safety of new aircraft before delivery.
These are a few results of the federal government shutdown, which the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee examined at a hearing Friday.
“The shutdown is doing enormous harm to our country, and it was totally avoidable,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., who heads the panel.
Lawmakers continued meeting Friday with President Obama, to resolve the spending disputes that prompted the shutdown Oct. 1 and still prevent an extension of the country’s debt limit. But a solution remained elusive.
“No one is happy about the current shutdown,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who attended the hearing after meeting with Obama. “Regrettably this is a catastrophe of our own creation.”
The National Transportation Safety Board furloughed 383 of its 405 workers during the shutdown, said Acting Chairman Deborah Hersman. Investigations can still be launched to collect perishable evidence at the scene, but more than 1,000 investigations have been suspended, she said.
“These delays slow our determinations of probable cause and issuance of safety recommendations,” Hersman said.
Two investigative hearings have been postponed: one Nov. 6 and 7 into the Asiana Airlines crash that killed three in San Francisco and one Oct. 22 and 23 into two Washington subway crashes in May.
NTSB hasn’t sent any investigators to a dozen accidents since the shutdown began. One was a bus crash Oct. 2 in Dandridge, Tenn., that killed eight people and injured 13 others. One was the crash of a Bombardier Dash-8 on Oct. 5 in Colombia near Panama, which killed four people and seriously injured two. One was a worker fatality Oct. 6 during construction on Washington’s subway system.
“I urge you to take action to permit the NTSB to resume its critical safety mission,” Hersman said.
Marion Blakey, CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, said the shutdown has prevented the Federal Aviation Administration from training new air-traffic controllers and halted inspections that certify the safety of new aircraft so they can be delivered.
“While the impacts are tangible and harmful to our nation and industry, a much lengthier shutdown could lead to cascading and devastating consequences,” Blakey said.
Her group wrote Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on behalf of 49 manufacturers, operators and trade groups urging him to reopen the portion of the FAA that certifies new aircraft for delivery.
Kenneth Quinn, a partner at Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw, Pittman LLP and a former FAA chief counsel, wrote the letter strongly urging the department to “exercise its discretion” to restore the office’s operations.
Jansen writes for USA Today.