The Partial Government Shutdown:

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The Partial Government Shutdown:

The Aviation Safety Sky is not falling,

But

the Aviation Innovation Ceiling is beginning to crumble

Shutdown Shutters Many U.S. Aviation Safety Activities

Safety not at risk NOW

Delay on Regulated Companies hurts

Shutdown damaging innovation now and even more after

by Kerry Lynch

January 22, 2019, 12:05 PM

With the partial U.S. government shutdown now in its fifth week, key safety activities such as the release of most Airworthiness Directives (ADs) remain on hold. In fact, the FAA has issued only one new AD this year, involving high-thrust settings of the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines on the Boeing 787-8. That AD was released on Friday as an interim action ahead of the comment period because the FAA determined that the risk justified the immediate action.

Under the DOT guidance plans for the government shutdown, safety workforce at the FAA would be “limited to safety critical staff whose job is to perform urgent continued operational activity to protect life and property.” As such, the agency is working operational safety issues to determine whether urgent safety action is necessary, such as the release of emergency ADs. All other ADs, however, have stopped. By this time last year, the agency had already issued some 25 ADs and proposed nearly a dozen more.

ADs are only one safety area on hold. The Aviation Safety Action Program—which provides a mechanism for voluntary reporting and mitigating safety issues in a non-threatening” environment—has stalled from the agency’s furlough, backlogging event review committee (ERC) meetings and putting new memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on hold. Bryan Burns, president of the Air Charter Safety Foundation, noted that in the ACSF-administered ASAP program, eight ERC meetings in January have been postponed, while a handful of MoUs that establish the programs with operators remain pending.

Further, the National Transportation Safety Board has quieted for the most part. One CBS report suggested that nearly 75 ongoing investigations—crossing all modes—have been put on hold. NTSB, however, could launch a major investigation or continue investigatory work involving imminent safety ramifications.

Due to the professionalism of the air traffic controllers, the airways facility technicians, the aviation safety staff and all of those deemed to be essential, the aviation safety system continues to perform as designed. The FAA senior management recognized the need to layer secondary and tertiary mechanisms to control risks. The statutes and regulations assign the responsibility to industry as well.

For the interim, these measures are maintaining the integrity of aviation. How much longer? That is an answer beyond estimate.


Due to the professionalism of the air traffic controllers, the airways facility technicians, the aviation safety staff and all of those deemed to be essential, the aviation safety system continues to perform as designed. The FAA senior management recognized the need to layer secondary and tertiary mechanisms to control risks. The statutes and regulations assign the responsibility to industry as well.

For the interim, these measures are maintaining the integrity of aviation. How much longer? That is an answer beyond estimate.

More Details to the Shutdown’s Impacts on FAA

SHUTDOWN AND SAFETY—FAA insights


However, the partial shutdown has impacted the progress of some regulated businesses as evidenced by these articles:

Southwest Airlines CEO ‘disappointed’ government shutdown is delaying Hawaii flights

Government shutdown stalls aircraft safety inspections, new jets and routes, industry complains

Major Aviation Organizations to Government: End the Shutdown

The lack of a fully-functioning FAA keeps commercial …organizations from progressing on their planned timelines with certifications, delaying expensive projects; has prevented the training and licensing of new air traffic controllers and pilots, exacerbating the work shortage; and prevents airlines from adding new aircraft to their fleets…

Aviation industry insiders stress that each day projects are halted has an exponentially longer and more costly impact down the line, and the organizations who signed the letter are concerned that it will take a long time to recover from any setback in the industry’s efforts to bolster staffing.”


In the same category of strain, but not break, the partial shutdown is harming the NTSB:

83 NTSB investigations delayed due to shutdown

The Board’s docket will be delayed and become burdened. Their safety recommendations will not be available on  a timely basis and that is another bad consequence of the partial shutdown.

The Partial Shutdown’s heaviest, most immediate impact is hitting aviation innovation. New technology is driving entrepreneurs to create new forms and adjuncts to flight. Many of these ventures are small businesses with the tight schedules which reflect the time value of money.


In prioritizing the current work of the FAA’s essential workers, the review of data needed to advance a certification proof does not appear in the inbox of the ACO (or what the new organizational designation may be) staff. More immediate assignments like an emergency AD occupies the full attention of the reduced number of experts.

  •  The design of a proposed eVTOL includes so much new technology—propulsion, batteries, navigation, sense-and-void- that constant consultation with the FAA engineers is critical.
  • A Part 121 applicant can do much, but not all with its Qualified Certification Consultant. Each day of Shutdown equals a loss of operating capital to pay your essential staff.
  • The parameters of the chemical standards for sustainable alternative jet fuels are important to their ultimate approval, but not likely to be on the mind of the FAA staff.
  • Ironically, the new Part 23 has unleashed small aircraft innovators to develop new aeronautical concepts. While ASTM plays a greater role in setting the performance standards, the certification staff still has a role.
  • The fleet of new Airships bears little resemblance to the existing models; consequently their certification processes demand significant interaction with the FAA.

When this stupid Shutdown comes to an end, the backlog of work will be unparalleled; never in the history of the FAA has so much work been delayed. Aviation Innovation has reached a high and the new technologies, which this wave brings, creates more requirements of regulatory resources. That demand for technical coordination will exacerbate every day during which the FAA is shut.

Mere paperwork is an obvious negative consequence of this closure of the federal government and is quantifiable. A greater impediment to responding to the legitimate post shutdown will be be the psychological damage to the career civil servants. The monetary impact of no compensation is obvious, but the denigration implicit in being a political pawn may be overwhelming to the career civil servants. Returning to a stack of work, which accumulated due to others’ external interference, will require extra motivation to attack the pile. When the 5 pm hour arrives, the motivation needed to stay at work may not ignore the painful period of exclusion from work.

The government will continue to function. Whatever the target of the politicians in the Partial Shutdown may have been, their decisions will likely cripple, if not crush, the incubating aviation innovation. The delays induced by this period of no work will create the most damage to these sources of new flight. Their ceiling will be harmed and their upside potential may require years to recover.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8 Comments on "The Partial Government Shutdown:"

  1. chris krajchir | January 24, 2019 at 1:03 am | Reply

    You are not seeing the bigger picture here. Unfortunately, aviation is an industry (for the most part) is reactive, day by day, so this “stupid shutdown” is felt only by a very few. You are right though, the sky is not falling, nor will it.

  2. Politico’s QUICK FIX— Day 34 of the shutdown. The cascade of effects on aviation goes on, with the latest worries being that delayed FAA activities could mean that smaller aviation companies are forced to lay off workers,

  3. A BLOW TO SMALL BIZ: The General Aviation Manufacturers Association warned that smaller aviation businesses may be forced to lay off employees, as the shutdown continues to limit FAA in many ways. During the early days of the shutdown, GAMA wrote in a new one-pager, member companies were able to “mitigate the impacts on new aircraft development and certification programs.” But the prolonged lapse in appropriations is threatening their ability to provide new planes and maintenance.

  4. You don’t mention that the shutdown setbacks to FAA and aviation industry initiatives are coming on top of an extraordinary number of new FAA mandates from the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, many of which have deadlines.

  5. Irene– (I) because the Congressional deadlines are ABSURD and (II) the deadlines are, and should be, subsumed to real imperatives. It is rare that the dates are met. Members do it for show– only their constituents think the deadlines matter. Snow days should be greater impediments to their work than statutory deadlines. My answer to Congress would be “so sue me.”

  6. Sandy,

    Nonetheless, the additional mandates are law, some are important, and the FAA was provided with no additional resources to address them. FAA employees had a mountain on their collective shoulders even before this shutdown.

    • Chris Krajchir | January 25, 2019 at 12:53 am | Reply

      There does need to be a certain degree of disruption, perhaps in the extreme. D.C. is cozy in their comfort zones and mired in complacency. Anyone that introduces changes to that mindset are considered threatening. A toothache has turned into an abscess. Enough is enough. Do the Dirty Dozen and Human Factors come to mind? Fundamental.

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