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Canadians, Irish send pizza and support to local shutdown air traffic controllers

Workers at an air traffic control center in Edmonton, Alberta, had the idea Thursday of sending lunch to their counterparts in Anchorage, Alaska.

A Southwest plane prepares to take off with

A Southwest plane prepares to take off with the air traffic control tower in the background at MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma. Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Air traffic controllers across Long Island, working for the past three weeks without pay due to the partial federal government shutdown, received a lift to their spirits — and their stomachs — this weekend as they received dozens of pizzas from contemporaries in Canada and Ireland.

On Friday, three dozen pies from Gino's in Ronkonkoma arrived at the Air Route Traffic Control Center in Ronkonkoma courtesy of Canadian Air Traffic Controllers Association units in Moncton, New Brunswick, and Gander, Newfoundland.

And on Sunday, members of the Irish Air Traffic Controllers Association sent a half dozen pies from Borelli's in East Meadow to staff at New York Terminal Radar Approach Control in Westbury.

Kevin Maney, president at the National Air Traffic Controllers Association for NY TRACON, said the show of "solidarity" will not be forgotten.

"Aviation is a brotherhood," Maney said. "It's really amazing the compassion and camaraderie they showed us."

Additional deliveries are on the way from Irish air traffic control units in Dublin and Shannon, said Helen Sheridan, general secretary of the Irish Air Traffic Controllers Association.

"We know these are small gestures, but they are important in showing how closely knit the global ATC community is," Sheridan said.

The cheesy deliveries — dubbed #pizzadiplomacy on Twitter — were initiated on Thursday when an air traffic control center in Edmonton, Alberta, had the idea of sending lunch to their counterparts in Anchorage, Alaska.

The idea took off and by Monday Canadian units had sent at least 350 pies to nearly 50 American air traffic control units, officials said.

One of the first deliveries was in Suffolk, said David Lombardo, a former staffer at the Ronkonkoma facility who now runs a satirical air traffic control Facebook group and merchandise website.

"The aviation industry is like a family," said Lombardo of Oakdale, who posted a notice to Reddit ​on the pizza deliveries. "Everyone takes care of one another."

The Canadian Air Traffic Controllers Association tweeted Sunday: "A little pizza goes a long way! CATCA members are proud to stand with our @NATCA brothers and sisters. #Solidarity"

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association said there are currently 14,000 controllers working without pay since the shutdown standoff began on Dec. 22 between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over funds to build a wall on the U.S. southern border with Mexico.

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