Published: Sep 30, 2013 11:22 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - Union officials say the Federal Aviation Administration is furloughing nearly 3,000 inspectors at the heart of the agency's safety operations because of Congress' federal budget impasse.
    
The inspectors check to make sure airlines are maintaining their planes safely, conduct inspections at airports of planes and pilots, and visit domestic and foreign repair stations where airlines send planes for major overhauls, among other safety jobs.
    
Professional Aviation Systems Specialists president Mike Perrone said he is outraged the FAA considers the inspectors "as playing anything but a pivotal role in protecting the safety of the American public."
    
FAA spokeswoman Kristie Greco declined to confirm the inspector furloughs. She noted that nearly 2,500 safety office personnel will be furloughed, but they may return to work incrementally over the next two weeks