Furloughs affect UF plane crash investigation

The FAA and NTSB will not be investigating plane crash, because workers are furloughed.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The government shutdown is impacting the investigation of a plane crash at the University of Florida campus on Saturday.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will not be investigating it, because thousands of workers are furloughed.

This has some people concerned about how this will impact airlines and the safety of flying.

The aviation unit of the Alachua County Sheriff's Office is investigating the crash. Nearly all of the FAA's 12,000 certified staff and inspectors were told to take the forced unpaid time off. A move that came as a surprise to many.

"They basically told us to go home and we will call you when we need you back," said FAA Inspector Stephen Ferrara.

That's what safety inspector Stephen Ferrara was told the morning of the shutdown. That his job was furloughed until further notice. He is part of the Federal Aviation Authority, one of the primary groups in charge of inspecting plane crashes.

Because of the furloughs, plane crashes like the one that happened in Gainesville on the University of Florida campus, won't be investigated by the FAA or NTSB. Instead, it will be investigated by the Alachua County Sheriff's Office. Witnesses said the sheriff's office did handle the crash well on Saturday.

"They came here very, very quickly and I was very happy that both the Alachua County PD and the University PD had both managed to contain the scene, get the people out. It was very good service," said a witness.

More than 15,000 FAA employees have been furloughed, a third of their workforce. This includes almost 3,000 air safety inspectors who are not reporting to work and not getting paid for now. Some industry analysts say a short term shutdown could just be an annoyance but longer term it could become increasingly difficult.

"If they're out for 3 weeks they may be 6 weeks away from performing those safety surveillance tasks and that has to concern all of us at least a little," said former FAA attorney, Loretta Alkalay.

The FAA released a statement that said "safety is their top priority… and if the furlough extends longer than a few days, they will incrementally begin to recall specific employees back."

As for the UF crash, two people inside the plane are expected to be fine. They were flying a banner plane for the UF versus Arkansas game. The plane is actually from Jacksonville.

No one was injured on the ground. 

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