AOPA to FAA: Halt sequestration cuts targeting GA

March 12, 2013

AOPA is urging FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to halt cuts that will disproportionately affect the safety and integrity of general aviation operations.

“The recommended cuts will have unacceptable consequences for the nation and the flying community,” AOPA President Craig Fuller said in a March 12 letter to Huerta. “We urge you to suspend the planned cuts while we, and others, call upon Congress and the Administration’s budget officials to grant you the needed flexibility to make choices that will reduce spending without threatening the safety of our skies or disabling general aviation.”

In addition to the closure of more than 200 control towers at GA airports across the country, Fuller expressed his alarm over further cuts that will restrict weather and flight services, allow the navigational system to deteriorate, and derail aircraft certification.

On March 1, the Obama administration and Congress allowed a series of automatic spending cuts known as sequestration to take effect. The FAA’s share is $600 million. As Fuller noted in his letter, the FAA’s own officials admitted that the planned cuts will have a severe and disproportionate effect on GA.

One of the biggest cuts will come to air traffic services in the form of control tower closures. Pilots rely on control towers to coordinate safe arrivals and departures and to prevent collisions in the air and on the ground. Most of the towers slated for closure are operated by private contractors—a system with an excellent record of safety and efficiency.

“The FAA contract tower program is, without question, one of the most cost-effective and successful programs in the history of the agency,” Fuller told Huerta. “Contract towers handle approximately 28 percent of all air traffic control tower operations in the United States, but account for just 14 percent of the FAA’s total tower operations budget...it is illogical to dismember this program in a budget reduction scenario.”

Fuller also pointed out that AOPA has encouraged a number of cost-saving initiatives that should be considered in sequestration discussions.

“The expanded use of the driver’s license medical for pilots, online aircraft registration, streamlining the CFI renewal process, and outsourcing the work of the FAA Safety Team are just a few of the recommendations AOPA has championed in recent years,” Fuller noted.

“As the FAA navigates the challenges of sequestration, we ask that you continue to work with AOPA and the entire community to identify options that do not place the burden of sequestration squarely on general aviation,” Fuller wrote.