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Isakson, Chambliss Send Letter Criticizing FAA’s Imprudent Decision to Furlough Air Traffic Controllers, Create Delays for Passengers

By   /   April 22, 2013  /   Comments

Special to the Journal

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., on Friday strongly urged Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta to reconsider his plan to furlough air traffic controllers and reduce staffing in towers to cut costs as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011. Such furloughs would create thousands of delays each day at all major airports across the country, and the senators told Huerta in a letter to find other ways to cut costs without affecting efficiency or safety.

(File photo)

Isakson and Chambliss warned in their letter that “between 3,800 and 6,000 flights per day will experience delays as a direct result of these furloughs. To put this into perspective, the worst weather day during 2012 produced 2,600 flight delays.” The furloughs, which went into effect Sunday, have already caused widespread delays at airports across the country, including at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The senators also stated, “It is our belief that the FAA is not pursuing every avenue possible to save money without affecting its overall mission, which is to ‘provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world.’ While we understand that safety remains the top priority for the FAA, we would encourage you to review other areas to reduce costs, such as in non-personnel, travel, and consultant accounts, before implementing air traffic controller furloughs.”

The full text of the senators’ letter is below.

Administrator Michael Huerta

Federal Aviation Administration

800 Independence Ave., SW, Room 1010

Washington, DC 20591

Dear Administrator Huerta:

Members of Congress and staff were notified today of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) decision to furlough air traffic controllers, effective just three days from now on April 21. It is our understanding that the decision will require one furlough day per pay period, totaling 11 furlough days for the remainder of FY2013, and will reduce staffing in towers by 10 percent.

Based on the information we received today from the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization (ATO), this 10 percent reduction in air traffic controller staffing is anticipated to cause significant and consistent passenger and cargo delays. Overall, the FAA predicts that between 3,800 and 6,000 flights per day will experience delays as a direct result of these furloughs. To put this into perspective, the worst weather day during 2012 produced 2,600 flight delays. As you know, the FAA defines a delay by 15 minutes or more.

According to the airline industry, the FAA has acknowledged that airlines will have to extend their operation schedules into the late evening or early morning hours, or cancel flights all together. When you take into consideration high load factors and peak travel hours/days, passengers will most likely be unable to book or even rebook flights, as a result of such cancelations.

It is our belief that the FAA is not pursuing every avenue possible to save money without affecting its overall mission, which is to “provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world.” While we understand that safety remains the top priority for the FAA, we would encourage you to review other areas to reduce costs, such as in non-personnel, travel, and consultant accounts, before implementing air traffic controller furloughs. We also encourage you to remain, as your mission states, “accountable to the American public and stakeholders.”

In order to better understand the FAA’s plans for dealing with sequestration, please provide our offices with your methodology for arriving at this decision. Additionally, in the future, we would appreciate the courtesy of being informed well in advance when decisions of this magnitude are contemplated.

Sincerely,

Saxby Chambliss Johnny Isakson

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