Three metro Atlanta airports could be impacted if the Federal Aviation Administration takes a hit in a possible budget sequestration March 1.
To prepare, the FAA has planned to reduce its expenditures by approximately $600 million for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year. Among the changes considered would be to furlough a majority of the agency's 47,000 employees for approximately one day per pay period. It would also consider closing over 100 air traffic control facilities, eliminate the overnight shift at over 60 facilities in addition to reducing preventive maintenance and support for all air traffic control equipment.
FAA stated on its website that it would begin furloughs and shutdowns in April. It takes 30 days for the change.
No Georgia airports were on the list of airports eliminating overnight shifts. However, seven Georgia airports could have their air traffic control facilities shutdown. They are:
ABY Southwest Georgia Regional - Albany, GA
AHN Athens-Ben Epps - Athens, GA
CSG Columbus Metropolitan - Columbus, GA
FTY Fulton County-Brown Field - Atlanta, GA
LZU Gwinnett County-Briscoe Field - Lawrenceville, GA
MCN Middle Georgia Regional - Macon, GA
RYY Cobb County-McCollum Field - Atlanta, GA
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association was quick to respond to the FAA's Friday announcement. NATCA represents over 20,000 air traffic controllers, engineers and other safety-related professionals.
NATCA President Paul Rinaldi posted the following statement on the association's website Friday:
"Today's announcement from the FAA unfortunately confirms the concerns we have been warning about for months – sequestration will significantly and perhaps permanently undermine the capacity of the National Airspace System. The fact that they will not just be furloughing critical FAA personnel but closing air traffic control towers means the system will be even more compromised than anticipated. We share the FAA's commitment to preserving the safety of the system despite these draconian cuts. Safety is always the top priority of air traffic controllers, but the reality is this - safety will be preserved at the expense of operations across the country. Once towers are closed, the airports they serve may be next. Additionally, we believe the delay estimates provided by the FAA are conservative and the potential for disruptions could be much higher.
"Every one of these actions by the FAA will have an impact far beyond inconveniencing travelers. Local economies will be diminished, military exercises will be cancelled and jobs will be lost. There's no telling how long these effects will be felt because many of these service reductions may not be reversed. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association continues to urge the nation's policy-makers to find a solution that prevents or mitigates the impact of sequestration in a way that does not diminish the world's safest and most efficient national airspace system."
In his weekly address, President Barack Obama stated how he wanted Congress to comprise on the cuts. Obama stated that hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake across the nation. In addition to the aviation industry, education and the military are facing cuts.
Obama said that the threat of budget cuts has forced the Navy to delay the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. Cuts could also affect the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels air shows while the Pentagon has announced almost 800,000 defense employees could be forced to take unpaid leave.
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