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DALLAS It is now one week since a political impasse in Washington forced the shutdown of a large portion of federal government operations.

And while many 'essential' operations have been spared, concerns are growing over why airline safety inspectors are not considered 'essential.'

Nearly 3,000 aviation safety inspectors are somewhere other than where they should be, and that's making sure the skies are safe.

While commercial airlines do have their own safety and quality control experts, it's up to the 3,000 aviation safety inspectors to make sure the airlines are doing their jobs making sure that maintenance is performed; that pilots are well-trained; and that air traffic is being properly supervised.

Yet during the week-long federal government shutdown, those inspectors have found themselves off the job along with other 'non-essential' government workers.

'Obviously, we don't consider ourselves 'non-essential,'' said Linda Goodrich, a vice president for the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union.

She is also a safety inspector who feels public safety is being compromised by politics.

'Because when something bad is happening in our world, that's not a good thing, and I don't want to see something like that happen as a way to demonstrate the consequences,' Goodrich said.

Dallas attorney John Kettles represents victims of airline accidents. He said he is well aware of the need for government oversight of the industry.

'What the government is doing right now is erasing one level of safety,' Kettles said. 'So aviation is not as safe today when the government was still operating.'

Kettles said he flew from Michigan to Dallas on Monday morning.

Jerome Madrid, a passenger at Love Field who was about to board a flight to Albuquerque Monday afternoon, said he had no idea the safety inspectors had all been furloughed.

'I'm a little bit concerned, but not worried,' he said with a nervous laugh. 'We are still traveling, but a little concerned.'

Another commercial air traveler, John van Herpen of Denison, feels politics should never come before public safety.

'I feel Congress needs to figure themselves out real quick and quit stonewalling each other and do what they need to do,' he said.

FAA officials say if the furlough extends longer than a few days, they will begin to recall specific employees which may include safety inspectors.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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