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IROPS The New SOP?

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The U.S.'s largest pilots union is warning its members that "irregular operations" (IROPS) could become the new normal as the FAA pushes ahead with its plan to furlough employees, including air traffic controllers, for a day every other week. The Airline Pilots Association International (ALPA), which filed suit against the FAA Friday, along with industry trade groups, to try to halt the furlough plan's implementation says the FAA itself is saying the furloughs could be more disruptive than a summer cold front barreling into the Eastern Seaboard. "The FAA has told airlines that on average, the furloughs could delay twice as many flights as during the most heavily storm-disrupted days last year," an ALPA memo says (PDF). It also says the reduced staffing could routinely delay 6,700 flights daily at the country's 13 busiest airports, which, of course, can spread to every corner of the air transportation system. It also notes that others are predicting relatively minimal impact on the system as a whole.

Nevertheless, airlines are keeping their IROPS plans within easy reach as the furloughs began Sunday. "The bottom line is that you should plan for possible IROPS starting Sunday," the memo said. "The extent of the impact from the spending cuts is unknown, but given the statement from the FAA above, you should be prepared, especially if you commute."

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