Shutdown not affecting business aviation
The shurdown has not yet effected business aviation but the longer the funding crisis goes on, the more likely the situation will get worse
When the US Congress adjourned on 23 July without
passing the temporary funding measure for the Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) since its last long-term budget was approved in 2007, it appeared that parts of the FAA had shutdown.
“For all practical purposes, they’ve gone
home,” FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said.
Congress has been debating since 2007, trying
to find a long term solution to the funding of FAA. In fact the Congress has
been deferring a decision by passing temporary funding since 2007.
The expiration of FAA’s funding authority
came as members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
disagreed on a provision addressing the Essential Air Services program, which
funds commercial airline flights to rural markets.
Babbitt continued “It’s just very
disappointing to me that Congress has decided they’re going to pick a fight
here,” he said. “The problem is that… 4,000 FAA employees are going to be the
ones who suffer at the hands of a political dispute.”
In the short term, the FAA shutdown, which
began at midnight on Friday, 22 July shouldn’t be disruptive to NBAA members,
according to NBAA senior vice president, Operations and Administration Steve
Brown. In fact, he said, many business aviation operators may not notice that a
portion of the FAA has been temporarily shuttered if the congressional impasse
over FAA reauthorization is quickly resolved.
Babbitt concurred with that assessment. But,
he said, the longer the shutdown goes on, the more airports, especially general
aviation and smaller facilities frequented by business aviation would suffer.
He pointed out that the FAA, which gives out almost $1 billion each fiscal
quarter, had shut down its grant programs at noon on Friday. Construction
workers building airport facilities and infrastructure funded by the Airport
Improvement Program were idled until funding is restored.
As long as the FAA is without a funding
mandate from Congress, business operators are left in a quandary about whether
to collect taxes levied under the agency’s authority. They include the
percentage tax, domestic segment fee, international arrival/departure tax and
the Hawaii/Alaska tax. Babbitt told NBAA that Congress’s failure to fund the
FAA will cost the government approximately $200 million a week.
While previous potential shutdowns of the
FAA have been resolved in a few days with no disruption of air traffic or other
essential functions, Babbitt was anything but confident a solution to the
funding crisis was close at hand.
“Oh, I’m very concerned as we go on beyond
Monday,” he stated, noting that Congress would not meet to discuss the matter
until 25 July at the earliest. He said he was not at all confident a funding
agreement could soon be reached.
Brown said that fears of
massive delays in the ATC system are not realistic, since most of the FAA
workers now furloughed operate in areas focused on research, equipment
installations and long-term airport projects. Critical daily functions such as
Air Traffic Control (ATC) services, and ATC support functions such as weather
service, the ATC System Command
Center and flow control
would continue without disruption.