FAA's shutdown recovery will take time

October 17, 2013

The reopening of the government on Oct. 17 was welcomed by an aviation industry eager to get back to normal business after a 16-day government shutdown. But it could be several weeks or longer before the FAA sets its priorities, deals with backlogs, and addresses other administrative challenges.

Members should expect a fairly fluid situation in their near-term dealings with the agency as it gets back to work following the largely unprecedented shutdown, said Robert Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs.

"The FAA is open today, but it is by no means business as usual," he said. "That may take several weeks, if not longer, with each individual area within the FAA looking at its priorities for getting back into the work flow."

Operational and safety functions will most likely be the FAA’s initial focus, but AOPA has asked the FAA to also address the issue of temporary airman certificates that expired during the shutdown before the pilot received a permanent certificate. Many other temporary airman certificates may be about to expire.

Other administrative headaches surfaced almost as soon as the shutdown began: The FAA’s aircraft registry, which provides services necessary for sales and deliveries of new aircraft, is facing a mounting processing backlog. Equally important, it must expedite delayed sales of used aircraft by enabling the resumption of title searches, which are critical to aircraft financing. (In a news release, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association estimated that he shutdown had delayed deliveries of 150 new aircraft worth more than $1.9 billion.)

Perhaps suffering more of an impact from the shutdown than other services was the FAA’s medical certification branch, which was already facing “a significant case load and backlog,” Hackman said.

Member reports encouraged

AOPA members should expect “a fairly fluid situation” in their dealings with the FAA over the next few weeks as the agency works to expedite its recovery from the shutdown and address efficiency of service delivery, Hackman said. He requested that members contact AOPA’s Pilot Information Center with reports on the FAA’s delivery of services, "as time-critical items come up," during the shutdown recovery effort. Members should also be cognizant of the FAA’s workload getting back up to speed and through its backlog, and should only make requests or inquiries that are time critical, putting off applications or renewals that can wait a month or two. 

On Oct. 17, a notice posted on the website of the U.S. Department of Transportation gave the status of the federal government as "open," and noted that "agencies are strongly encouraged to use all available workplace flexibilities to ensure a smooth transition back to work for employees."

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.