In shutdown's wake, FAA inspectors face backlog of safety and maintenance issues

By William J. McGee, for Consumer Reports

Jan 28, 2019

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Aviation experts and federal inspectors warn that five weeks of severe staffing shortages from the longest U.S. government shutdown in history might already have compromised passenger safety, even if all workers return to jobs on Monday, according to a Consumer Reports investigation.

On Friday, congressional leaders and President Donald Trump announced a deal to temporarily reopen the government for three weeks while they continue negotiations over border-wall funding.

Perhaps most telling is a dramatic decrease since the shutdown of FAA Airworthiness Directives, which the agency describes as “legally enforceable regulations” to correct unsafe conditions in aircraft, engines, and propellers. These are the orders that can ground planes and force repairs.

Despite the planned return to work, FAA inspectors and other airline industry workers told CR they’re worried about a backlog of inspection work and its impact on safety. They stress that flying currently remains safe.

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