Facing the possibility of another government shutdown at week’s end, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has scheduled a hearing this Wednesday to delve into how the recent 35-day shutdown harmed not only FAA functions, but also the larger aviation industry.
Among those scheduled to testify at the hearing, “Putting U.S. Aviation Safety at Risk: The Impact of the Shutdown,” is National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) president Paul Rinaldi, who will stress the erosion of layers of safety and detail the stress placed on the workforce during the shutdown, NATCA said.
The hearing follows last week’s introduction of a bill, H.R.1108, which would shield FAA programs and workers from a future shutdown. Introduced by T&I chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and aviation subcommittee chairman Rick Larsen (D-Washington), that bill would enable funds to continue to flow from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund to cover FAA programs and payrolls during shutdowns.
The bill garnered strong support from a cross-section of industry, including NATCA and a number of business and general aviation organizations. “Aviation is among the nation’s most regulated industries, requiring oversight and a host of services from the FAA,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen, noting the bill would avoid a potentially harmful disruption in the event of another shutdown.
"This is a common-sense piece of legislation that ensures that all of the critical components of our National Airspace System remain fully operational, without interruptions, in a safe and secure manner, regardless of the political environment," agreed Shelly Simi, president and CEO of the National Association of State Aviation Officials. "As demonstrated by the recent shutdown, aviation has a broad-reaching effect in serving the needs of our citizens and communities across the nation and directly impacts the economy."
“Words cannot express our relief that no significant aviation-related accident or event occurred during the recent partial government shutdown,” added Helicopter Association International president and CEO Matt Zuccaro, praising introduction of the bill. “However, while the system remained safe, the inability to obtain needed permits and authorizations from the FAA caused financial harm to the helicopter industry and its operators.” Zuccaro pointed to the delays in critical preparations for the upcoming fire season, as well as the issuance of necessary certifications.