The FAA has said it would close 60 airport control towers during midnight shifts, shut down more than 100 towers completely at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations per year and begin furloughing staff under mandatory budget cuts set to start taking effect March 1.
Delays of up to 90 minutes would saddle many airline flights to major cities during peak hours, and reduced facility maintenance would go along with the service reductions, according to a letter from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to government agencies, AOPA, and others in the aviation community.
“We are aware that these service reductions will adversely affect commercial, corporate and general aviation operators,” said the letter.
The two top aviation officials said their letter was “just the beginning” of a dialog with stakeholders about how to “reduce the negative impact” of required cuts expected to reach $600 million for the rest of this fiscal year. AOPA and other aviation organizations were set to meet next week with FAA officials for a briefing on the impact of the mandatory budget cuts under sequestration.
At recent events and again this weekend at the Northwest Aviation Conference, AOPA President Craig Fuller is stressing that the association has “forcefully” emphasized the need to maintain safe levels of service as budget negotiations proceed.
“Both sides in Washington agree that sequestration is not a sensible way to proceed, because its budget cutting is across the board and doesn’t take the realities of an agency like the FAA into account,” he wrote. “It’s hard to imagine a government agency that has more day-to-day interaction with the public than the FAA, and a great deal of that interchange is designed to keep people safe.”
Fuller added that implementing sequestration cutbacks would take time, during which pressure would likely mount on Congress and the Obama Administration to find a workable compromise on the budget.