FAA forced to prioritise workload

A US aviation chief is warning that industry must be realistic in terms of its expectations over certification and oversight schedules under a new budget regime which has forced it to make huge spending cuts.

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Speaking at a gathering of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association last week, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Michael Huerta said that while the aviation agency is  managing the impact caused by the automatic budget cuts – or sequester – as best it can, there will still be consequences.

“Our aviation safety inspectors will have to focus their attention on the most pressing priorities and devote their time to overseeing current activities to ensure continued safety. We are not in a position to take on a lot of new projects,” said Huerta.

“The sequester requires us to cut more than $600 million from the FAA’s budget. We are looking at all options to reduce costs we have implemented a hiring freeze, we are cutting contracts, and were reducing travel and other items not related to day-to-day operations.”

Huerta said that to reach the large figure the agency needs to cut, it has sent notices to 47,000 FAA employees letting them know that they could face furloughs (temporary lay-offs) of up to one day every two weeks. Furloughs will begin on April 21, and are expected to continue for the remainder of the fiscal year, which runs until September 30. Unlike previous government shutdowns, the lay-offs include critical personnel such as air traffic controllers and safety inspectors.

“This also means we will have to cut back on preventative maintenance, meaning that critical airfield equipment might not be repaired as quickly. This could lead to delays,” said Huerta who added that safety remained the FAA’s top priority. “We will only allow the amount of air traffic we can handle safely to take off and land. This translates into probable delays for travellers,” said the FAA chief.

He said flights to major cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco could experience delays up to 90 minutes during peak hours because controllers will be working fewer hours, and there will be limited flexibility in shifting or reassigning controllers to other duties. Delays in those major airports will ripple across the country.

“We are aware that these service reductions will adversely affect commercial, corporate, and general aviation operators. And we also expect that airlines will consider changes to their schedules, or even cancel flights as they realize the effects of the furloughs,” said Huerta.

The FAA has notified 189 airports across the country with federal contract towers that their facilities could be closed. These towers, when taken together collectively, handle less than three per cent of commercial operations nationally and less than one per cent of passengers.

Posted in CAAs/ANSPs, News, Operations

One Response to FAA forced to prioritise workload

  1. David McDonald says:

    The Safety Inspectos ATM/CNS and aerodrome component of Aviation is critical to Safety. Having across the board cut backs in these areas for the sake of cut backs is unbelieveable. Could American policy makers eventually move into GPS cost recovery?

    I am non American but I understand the cutbacks are due to disagreements with politicians? How sad

    I hope it doesn’t last too long