Air traffic control union warns of major travel impacts if shutdown persists

National Air Traffic Controllers Association's Dan McCabe is not mincing words about the impacts of this partial government shutdown.

"Without air traffic controllers, planes sit on the ground, plain and simple," he says

McCabe serves alongside nearly 400 regional air traffic controllers, part of the group that oversees operations at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

His FAA center is another essential service where employees are showing up and working, without pay.

"They (employees) are tired of this, they are tired of feeling like political pawns, they are tired of feeling like a bargaining chip," McCabe says. He adds, the conditions created by the shutdown are frustrating, and “dangerous.”

"Everybody has a breaking point. At what point will someone quit their career to do something else? Is it 2 checks, is it 3 checks, is it 4 checks, I don't know, but we can't afford to lose anybody. Because if we lose people, the system will collapse" McCabe adds.

He says his main fear is that employees could start resigning or retiring any day. He says staffing levels are already at historic lows, and if employees start to walk... airplanes might sit.

"We will not be able to move airplanes around like we do today without bodies" he notes. 

Congressional lawmakers are not set to return until Tuesday, bringing payroll for these workers dangerously close to missing another check.

McCabe says every day beyond that point is terrifying, uncharted territory that could have a major impact on air travel.

"I am fearful of what it will look like if we miss another check if we miss another check. I would have nightmares about what a 3rd check would look like, I am afraid that enough people will say enough is enough, I have to put food on my table or a roof over my head, and they will go get outside employment."