The effects of the U.S. government budget cuts that started on March 1 will not likely be felt until April but they could be significant for airlines and their passengers. The Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency will absorb the mandated spending cuts known as the “sequester” in part by furloughing employees, or requiring them to take several days of unpaid leave.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
Across-the-board federal budget cuts scheduled to begin on March 1 will limit the flight-handling capability of the U.S. National Airspace System and could lead to permanent airport and ATC facility closures, warned the head of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca).
When the U.S. Congress returns from recess on Monday, there will be just five working days to avoid across-the-board sequestration cuts, and prospects appear dim for a compromise that would avert these federal budget cuts. The general aviation community is sizing up the possible effects of sequestration on everything from the FAA’s NextGen modernization program to the contract tower program, as well as the day-to-day operation of current air traffic control services and facilities.
A new Reason Foundation study argues that U.S. passenger airports could support themselves and fund capacity improvements with user fees and long-term financing, eliminating the need for government grants from the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). The study by the libertarian research organization also proposes spinning off the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO) into a separate federal entity that charges users for ATC services.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) has released a report outlining the effects sequestration will have on the aviation industry, as well as the U.S. economy, if Congress does not act to avert the across-the-board cuts scheduled to take effect January 1.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) is pleased that air traffic controllers were dropped from the NTSB’s Top 10 Most Wanted safety list issued November 14. Two ATC-related issues, fatigue and pilot/controller professionalism were added to the Top 10 list in May 2011. Natca’s president Paul Rinaldi said the Board’s move to remove those two topics validates the efforts both the union and the FAA have made to address the problem areas. “Our sole focus is the safety of the system,” he said in a news release.
The director of Lockheed Martin’s En route Automation Modernization (Eram) program has said the system’s deployment across the U.S. is on schedule and on budget since the FAA recalculated, or “rebaselined,” its cost and schedule in June last year.
A program that lets air traffic controllers voluntarily report safety concerns without fear of reprisals has come under criticism from the Transportation Department’s inspector general, who told Congress that “significant improvement” is needed to find the root causes of safety risks.
Across the U.S., in all but four states, there are no fewer than 250 airport towers operated by non-FAA controllers employed by three private FAA contractors. The towers provide ATC services to a wide range of users, including general aviation, passenger and cargo airlines and the military.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report on July 19 outlining additional steps necessary to make the FAA’s Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) more effective at identifying safety risks.