The aviation industry is gathering on Capitol Hill Thursday to protest the prolonged partial U.S. government shutdown, highlight the harmful effects it is having on businesses and workers, and urge lawmakers to do what is necessary to reopen the affected agencies.
The event was scheduled on the 20th day of the shutdown that began December 22 for numerous agencies, including the Departments of Transportation, Commerce, and Homeland Security, among others. About 800,000 workers government-wide are either furloughed or working without pay, according to the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA). And at the FAA alone, nearly 18,000 workers are furloughed.
The schedule of speakers includes lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and a cross-section of the industry and comes as nearly three-dozen industry associations wrote the House and Senate leadership today citing numerous areas where the shutdown is harming the agencies and industry. “The human and economic consequences are increasing and doing greater harm,” the groups said.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association is spearheading the event, continuing to voice its concerns about the disruptions to training and the longer ramifications to the overall workforce, as well as to the disruptions to implementing key NextGen programs.
Also on the schedule is General Aviation Manufacturers Association president and CEO Pete Bunce. GAMA has further outlined a series of activities disrupted as a result of the shutdown. “We appreciate that Congress acted to keep the FAA Oklahoma City Aircraft Registry Office functioning during a government shutdown, but we are very concerned about the potential effects of a prolonged shutdown on other elements of FAA operations, including certification,” the association said, pointing to delays in product development because of FAA’s required involvement for certification and validation, aircraft and equipment modifications, and other approvals such as Instructions for Continued Airworthiness and MMELs. This affects delegated authority as well, since the FAA cannot conduct oversight.
Also, non-routine aircraft registrations have halted since Aeronautical Center Counsel attorneys are on furlough, resulting in additional leasing costs, limited access to capital, and reduced liquidity for aircraft trades, GAMA added. Further, flight authorizations, operational authorizations, and changes to operators’ certificates have also stopped, creating hurdles to putting aircraft into service after delivery. Pilot training is disrupted since the FAA is involved in authorizing tests, qualifying pilot examiners, and issuing course approvals, and modifications, GAMA also noted.
More broadly, AIA has cited effects of closures of other agencies, such as Commerce and State, that are holding up export licensing, as well as the overall disruption to government contractors.