Government shutdown could impact air traffic planning ahead of Super Bowl

ATLANTA — With Super Bowl LIII just 25 days away, Channel 2 Action News has learned the government shutdown is impacting safety plans.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr learned Wednesday that meetings to ensure metro Atlanta airports will be efficient to handle about 1,500 extra flights a day ahead of the big game – have ended.

With working for the federal government for the past 13 years, Dan McCabe said dire situations come and go, but with Friday looming – and no sign of paychecks for 800,000 of his colleagues – this time is different.

“It's tense. It's getting worse each day,” McCabe said.

McCabe is part of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

“It's already a stressful job, and now you've got a new stress that you're taking home. You don't usually take this kind of stress home with you but now you're worried about financial obligations,” McCabe said.


He works with about 400 of his colleagues at the Air Traffic Control Center in Hampton where operations take place the Atlanta and Charlotte airports.

Three others are in metro Atlanta.

“There's no talk of not coming to work. Everybody's being a pro about it,” McCabe said.

The trade association representing entities that own and operate major airport across North America sent a letter to President Trump and Congress on Tuesday urging them to reopen the government amid serious safety concerns tied to the TSA, FAA and Customs and Border Protection agents.

That was sentiment shared by travelers who Carr spoke with Wednesday.

“This makes me a little nervous. Nobody does their best work when they're not being paid for it,” traveler Cailee Davis said.

“I think the government truly need to think about who's suffering at the end of this, because the people are the ones who's suffering,” traveler Louis Mills said.

Beyond the day-to-day operation seen inside the airport, McCabe said another major operation has been disrupted.

“The problem is the meetings where we've been planning how to work all these extra airplanes-they've been canceled, so we were kind of stopped mid-stream in figuring this out,” McCabe said.

That includes air traffic planning for Super Bowl LIII to handle about 1,500 extra flights a day.

“To us is kind of like being told, well you're in the Super Bowl. You're playing in the Super Bowl but you can't look at game film, you can't game plan and don't take a playbook. So we're going to make it work,” McCabe told Carr. “We will keep it safe.”