With the federal government entering its fifth week of a partial shutdown, aviation unions highlighted Wednesday the looming security threat the industry was bound to face if the impasse went on. 

Unions representing air traffic controllers, airline pilots and flight attendants released a joint statement on the website of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), in which they underlined several concerns “for the safety and security” of their employees, airlines, “and the traveling public due to the government shutdown.” They also hinted at the possibility of the entire aviation industry collapsing due to the unprecedented shutdown.

“This is already the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States and there is no end in sight. In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented,” the statement said.

While talking about the consequences of the shutdown, the release added it had brought staffing to “a 30-year low” and staff were forced to work extra time without pay. Many had stopped coming to work “due to the financial toll of the shutdown.” The industry would suffer from an increasing dearth of employees with many Certified Professional Controllers (CPC) set to retire Wednesday.

“Almost 20 percent of CPCs are eligible to retire today. There are no options to keep these professionals at work without a paycheck when they can no longer afford to support their families. When they elect to retire, the National Airspace System (NAS) will be crippled.” the unions warned.

Following the statement by the unions, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) responded by saying there had been “no unusual increased absenteeism” and that the aviation industry continued to work effectively and safely.

“We have not observed any appreciable difference in performance over the last several weeks compared to the same periods during the previous two years. We remain grateful to the air traffic controllers for their professional and dedication to their safety mission,” USA Today reported, referring to a statement issued by an FAA spokesperson.

US Shutdown Aviation unions warned of consequences if the partial shutdown was prolonged. The image shows passengers waiting in a Transportation Security Administration line at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Jan. 9, 2019. Photo: GettyImages/Spencer Platt

On the contrary, Paul Rinaldi, president of National Air Traffic Controllers Association, expressed security concerns in an interview with CNN. He said major equipment that were responsible to guide pilots to make correct landings and provide weather details had gone down and not been fixed, and he had seen “routine mistakes” because employees were engrossed in finding a way to solve their financial problems.

Earlier this month, a coalition of 34 aviation industry groups sent a letter to President Donald Trump and the leaders of both the House and the Senate, imploring them to put an end to the impasse. Boeing also issued a statement to CNBC, in which it said the shutdown could have a bigger and adverse effect on its business and the aviation industry.

Trump declared a partial shutdown Dec. 22, in a bid to force Congress to meet his demand of $5.7 billion fund to build a wall along the border with Mexico. Democrats oppose the construction of the wall, leading to what has now become the longest shutdown in the government history.