Unpaid air traffic controllers handle medical emergency - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Unpaid air traffic controllers handle medical emergency aboard flight

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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -

A medical emergency aboard an American Airlines flight was handled safely on Sunday with the help of some unpaid air traffic controllers.

The government remains shut down with no solution from Congress in sight and local aviation personnel are feeling the brunt of it.

800,000 federal employees were furloughed when the government shut down almost a week ago, but air traffic controllers are considered essential, so they were required to come in and work without pay.

Pilots called for help after it appeared that a passenger was having a heart attack mid flight.

The following quotes were transcribed from the air traffic scanner:

"78-year-old male, history with heart conditions has lost consciousness. A physician on board the flight, he believes it is a heart attack."

"Medical personnel are requesting to know if the person is still breathing."

There are more than 20,000 air traffic controllers nationwide - trained to navigate 70,000 aircraft safely each day in tense circumstances.

One of the local air traffic controllers spoke with us but wished to remain anonymous. He says this past week has been frustrating.

He says mortgages still have to be met, children need to be fed, and car payments still need to be made. Working without pay has been stressful.

No matter what happens on Capitol Hill, he says they are willing to put their lives on hold because so many other lives are in their hands.

The air traffic controllers are expected to get back pay when the government opens back up, but with negotiations stalled in Washington, no one knows when that might be.

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