FAA Furloughs, Tower Closures, ATC Privatization Back On The Table

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With a new federal fiscal year about to launch on Oct. 1, FAA officials are facing a $700 million budget gap, according to Bloomberg News. A new round of automatic cuts will take effect in the new budget year and may have more impact than they did this year, sources told Bloomberg, citing briefings with FAA officials. The FAA also may revisit its proposal to close many contract towers, which was shelved last year, Bloomberg said. Bell Helicopter also blamed the federal budget cuts this week in announcing it cut 290 jobs in Fort Worth, Texas. "Sequestration is having an adverse impact on our industry, making the future for defense spending more uncertain than ever," Bell CEO Jim Garrison said on Monday. The recurring budget issues also have revived discussion about privatizing the air-traffic-control system.

"There are conversations taking place among the stakeholders [about privatizing ATC]," Gerald Dillingham, civil aviation director of the U.S. Government Accountability Office, told Bloomberg. Paul Rinaldi, president of NATCA, said he would be open to such a discussion. "I don't have the answers, but I do know the current system is broken," he said. Legislation now under consideration in Washington, however, could extend the current government budget levels through mid-December, delaying any new cuts until next year.