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Air-safety concerns take flight because of shutdown

By Justin Fujioka
Published On: Oct 02 2013 01:28:06 PM HST
Updated On: Oct 02 2013 10:42:15 PM HST

TSA workers cover checkpoints without getting paid, while 15,000 Federal Aviation Administration workers are out of work, including those who inspect the safety of airplanes.

HONOLULU -

It looked like business as usual Wednesday at airports across Hawaii. But it's the business part that's not usual at all.

Transportation Security Administration agents are manning the checkpoints, but they're not getting paid for it just yet.

Same goes for the Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic controllers.

They're still on the job, but more than 15,000 FAA workers are not, including the inspectors who make sure the planes the public flies in are maintained.

"We provide a very important service to the flying public. It's to ensure that the compliance with the federal air regulations are adhered to by all aviation operators and air carriers, airlines, with regard to safety," said Melvin Kahalehoe, union representative for the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists and one of nearly 70 aviation safety inspectors furloughed from the FAA Flight Standards Division's Honolulu Certificate Management Office.

FAA aviation safety inspectors are also in charge of pilot and mechanic certifications.

"Just like the motorcycle cop on the street, when you're driving down the street and you have a tendency to slow down. When we as aviation safety inspectors are out there doing our job, serving the public, the level of safety rises," Kahalehoe said. "I'm not saying that the safety has diminished as a result of us being laid off, but that's what the flying public pays us to do."

"I don't have any concerns today, but the longer the time goes, I probably would," said Beverly Heath, a visitor flying home to California. "I will not fly for a while."

Hawaii's inspectors are among the nearly 3,000 FAA safety inspectors furloughed nationwide.

The local office oversees all of Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

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