FAA warns of delays

In a speech to a meeting of the American Bar Association in Washington, DC this week, Michael Huerta, administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), told his audience of aviation and space law specialists that a year after the FAA had its budget re-authorized, it is once again facing fiscal uncertainty and unpredictability. Huerta said that “sequestration … would jeopardize many of the positive benefits …” that the FAA had “sought to create with the last year’s re-authorization.” The FAA’s administrator noted that: “Under the sequester, the FAA would have to cut $627 million in this fiscal year. Those cuts would be distributed proportionately across all budget line items in the affected accounts, which significantly decreases our flexibility in managing the budget reductions.” And he said that “we are currently considering actions that would include furloughing a majority of the FAA’s nearly 47,000 employees for approximately one day per pay period until the end of the fiscal year in September. This is not an action we take lightly, and we are looking at all options to reduce costs, including contracts and non-operational expenses — but given the magnitude of the reductions we face, it does not appear possible to avoid these furloughs.” Huerta said that the result would be that flights to major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco could experience delays in some instances of up to 90 minutes during peak hours, because we will have fewer controllers on staff. Delays in those major airports will ripple across the country. Cuts to budgets mean preventative maintenance and quick repair of air traffic equipment might not be possible, which could lead to further delays. “We would need to consider eliminating midnight shifts at more than 60 air traffic control towers across the country. And we would have to consider closing a large number of the 230 air traffic control towers at airports that are less busy — those that have less than 150,000 flight operations per year. This includes airports such as those in Boca Raton, Florida; Joplin, Missouri; Hilton Head, South Carolina and San Marcos, Texas,” Huerta told his audience. And he went on: “Our aviation safety inspectors would have to focus their attention on the most pressing priorities and would devote their time to overseeing current activities to ensure continued safety. They would not be in a position to take on a lot of new projects.” He observed: “We very much hope that Congress will pass an alternative debt reduction strategy that would eliminate the need for indiscriminate cuts.” But Huerta also pointed out that:”Aside from the possible sequester, the FAA does not have a budget for fiscal year 2013. Congress passed a continuing resolution which keeps the government running until March 27 at a rate equal to last year’s budget. After March 27, the FAA, and in fact the entire government, would need an approved budget or another continuing resolution to keep operating.” Go to for more.