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May 03
​Air Traffic Controller Furlough Ended but at What Cost to Counties?
Several days of pain for air travelers and pressure from the airlines encouraged Congress and President Obama to approve a legislative fix to sequestration to keep all air traffic controllers on the job. 

Sequestration had required the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to cut $637 million from their budgets, part of which resulted in furloughs for air traffic controllers.  The Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-9) provides authority to move $253 million into the FAA account for controllers thereby ending the one day every two weeks furloughs for 15,000 air traffic controllers that resulted in flight delays due to a daily controller staffing reduction of 10 per cent.  These furloughs began on April 21 and by the time FAA returned the controllers to fulltime status on April 28, an estimated 7,194 flights delays had occurred that were sequester related. The funding to put controllers back to work fulltime will be shifted from the Airport Improvement (AIP) Fund account.  Rather than cutting AIP entitlement payments to airports, the $253 million comes out of unspent entitlement funds that airports did not spend and is returned to the FAA. 

The good news is that county airports will not lose funds; the bad news is that some will lose the opportunity to receive returned AIP funds that are normally redistributed.  The other aviation sequestration issue is the announced closing of 149 privately operated but federally funded air traffic control towers effective June 15.  There appears to be enough money, $25 million, available in the controller furlough legislation to avoid the closures but no specific requirement was given to FAA to use this money for that purpose.  

Contact:  Bob Fogel 202.942.4217


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