WASHINGTON - The planes you and your family members fly on are not being inspected by Federal Aviation Administration officials because they have been deemed "non-essential" workers subject to furloughs during the partial government shutdown.
The union representing most of those workers is calling for an end to the shutdown, saying the safety of the flying public is at risk.
About 50 aviation safety inspectors handle inspections between airports in the D.C. area and have been furloughed, so for just over two weeks, union officials say flights have been without a last line of defense to prevent safety issues.
Professional Aviation Safety Specialists is the union that represents aviation safety inspectors. Thousands of PASS members and inspectors have been furloughed across the country. They sign off on the work of the airlines to make sure they are following regulations to keep passengers safe.
Since Dec. 22, those people have been off the job across the country because of the government shutdown. Many airlines have their own employees who inspect planes, but the union says the government workers are not there to check their work.
The union says that means flights are less safe.
"Our safety inspectors are those guys. They're the cops that are out there making sure the system's safe. Well they're not there anymore," said PASS President Mike Perrone.
"And without having our inspectors there the potential could be for a safety-related problem," Perrone said.
Some passengers at Reagan National Airport expressed concern about the situation.
"It makes me a little nervous. More so because our flight was just delayed in Raleigh because of mechanical issues on the plane in Boston and they had to get new plane and I wasn't quite aware of that being cut," said Keri Derges.
"I honestly don't understand how somebody like that is non-essential personnel. You'd assume that in situations like this one you'd need those people in place more than anything else," Damali Crawford said.
"The traveling public can be assured that our nation's airspace system is safe...We prioritize available resources and as such, inspectors are recalled and deployed as needed for required inspections for air carriers," FAA officials said.
The FAA acknowledged to FOX 5 that FAA inspectors who also provide support to accident investigations are also not doing those kinds of duties, but the FAA could launch investigations of what the agency deems to be major accidents.