On Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood laid out the likely consequences to his department and the FAA of possible automatic federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, that are scheduled to start March 1. In the absence of a revised budget deal between the Obama Administration and Congress, he said the FAA is planning $600 million in cuts through the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends September 30.
LaHood said the move could result in furloughs, air traffic control tower closings and an overall reduction in capacity, as well as delays in the National Airspace System. Likely actions include the closure of more than 100 ATC towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 annual operations; the elimination of midnight shifts at 60 other towered airports; a reduction in force at the remaining towers and air traffic control centers; and delayed repairs and reduced preventive maintenance and spares provisions for all National Airspace System equipment.
In a letter sent to affected stakeholders, including AOPA and NBAA, LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta warned that “we may reduce the efficiency of the national airspace…to maintain the highest safety standards.” LaHood said facility shutdowns would begin in April.