SEQUESTRATION WILL HAVE DIRE CONSEQUENCES ON CIVIL AVIATION, BUT THE SKIES WILL NOT FALL

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ARTICLE:  Wilkes-Barre/Scranton one of more than 100 U.S. airports at risk of closure

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The Center for American Policy is as alarmed as many are by the prospect of the disastrous consequences of SEQUESTRATION. To show what the real consequences of this Congressional construct may be, the Center has issued a report on sequestration’s impact on the FAA. The study forecasts the likely specific impact of that budgetary sword of Damocles will be on this safety agency.

The author of this report, Scott Lilly, a senior writer at CAP (after 31 years of service with the United States Congress where he was, most relevantly, clerk and staff director of the House Appropriations Committee) knows politics and the budget.

Mr. Lilly has articulated a view that the FAA will meet its obligation to reduce its budget by $1,300,000,000 by shutting down low level Air Traffic Control facilities, to wit 106 towers. That forecast appears to be more speculation than substance.

First, Mr. Lilly’s analysis does not cite any authority at the FAA, DoT or OMB for his supposed solution. Todd Hauptli, senior executive vice president of the American Association of Airport Executives, who is extraordinarily knowledgeable about the inner workings of the FAA, says that the agency is working on a plan.

Second, an earlier report on the impact of sequestration was written by the former clerk of the House Subcommittee which drafts the FAA’s appropriations bill. Mr. Efford takes the position there that the FAA Administrator would not compromise safety and would, therefore, not make the Sequestration cuts within the Air Traffic Service. Mr. Efford, now an AIA executive, believes that a more likely source of a cut would be the Next Gen expenditures. His expertise and his articulation of a substantial policy rationale would appear to trump Mr. Lilly’s opinion.

A third fault in the CAP assessment, not to guild the lily, derives from its own report, the reduction in force of these controllers would not be fully effective; the salary reductions sought would not be fully realized since federal law would require that the FAA compensate these laid off employees. This strategy would not only have safety consequences, but would affect the very tenuous relations between the FAA and the controllers union, NATCA.

Finally, closing towers, on a virtually random geographical basis, will impact the interconnected national airline system. With no service to Wilkes-Barre Scranton, the aircraft, which would otherwise have operated to/from that point, will have to be rescheduled to meet their daily economic utilization requirements.

While it is agreed that sequestration will have dire, unknown consequences on civil aviation, Mr. Lilly’s hypothesis of closing towers appears to be speculation, at best. The skies will not fall under Sequestration.

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