Government Shutdown Hits Business Aviation Hard

 - October 2, 2013, 6:06 PM
The business aviation industry is facing significant disruption from the closure of several key departments at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. [Photo: FAA]

During day two of the U.S. government shutdown, 15,000 FAA employees were still off the job on furlough and the business aviation community appears to have found the early impact of the closure to be greater than anticipated with disruption to several important FAA functions that were not impacted by previous Federal government shutdowns. While the agency has deemed some 30,000 employees as essential, keeping them on the job, a large portion of this workforce is providing air traffic control services, meaning many other FAA services are on hold until the budget impasse in Congress is resolved.

For instance, the U.S. aircraft registry process has effectively ground to a halt due the sudden and unexpected closure of FAA’s Oklahoma City office. AIN has been inundated with messages from aircraft brokers complaining about their inability to complete urgent aircraft transactions.

According to the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS), a union that represents some 4,000 FAA employees, a long list of work will not get done for each day the government shutdown persists. “Every day that Congress allows this shutdown to remain in place is putting the safety and efficiency of the aviation system at risk,” said PASS president Mike Perrone. “These unnecessary FAA furloughs are decreasing the safety margin and cannot be allowed to continue. Congress must put partisanship aside and allow the government–and all of its workers–to get back on the job now.”

Currently on furlough are about 3,000 aviation safety inspectors, who are not providing oversight of commercial and general aviation aircraft, pilots, flight instructors, domestic and foreign repair stations; conducting in-flight cockpit inspections or ramp inspections; overseeing third-party designees performing critical work on behalf of the FAA or air carriers; and issuing new or renewing current certificates.

Meanwhile, manufacturing inspectors are not providing manufacturing production approval and certification, evaluating aviation mechanics, facilities, training programs and equipment or addressing issues related to manufacturing facilities. In addition, FAA legal instrument examiners, program analysts and compliance specialists are not issuing registration certificates for U.S. civil aircraft and airmen or providing valuable information in support of aviation safety activities.

Flight inspection operations specialists and airspace system inspection pilots are also not conducting flight checks or airborne inspections of space- and ground-based instrument flight procedures and other navigational aids. And aeronautical information specialists and flight procedure evaluation specialists are not updating and distributing IFR and VFR aeronautical charts and publications.

In a statement, the FAA said, “The FAA’s Aviation Safety Organization, a department of approximately 7,000 nationwide, will have a staff of 310 in place during the initial days of the government shutdown, including managers in all field offices who will monitor the system and call back employees as necessary. If the furlough extends longer than a few days, we will begin to recall as many as 2,500 employees back to work incrementally, including safety inspectors, engineers and technical support staff, depending on need.”

In fact, PASS told AIN that the FAA will start recalling some aeronautical charting employees tomorrow so that updated IFR and VFR charts can be issued on October 17, which is when the next 28-day charting update cycle begins. “PASS is very concerned about the charting office,” a spokesman told AIN. “Up-to-date charts are critical for aircraft operations. The FAA has never missed a deadline for chart updates, and we hope it won’t on October 17.”