Obama: Sequestration Would Affect ATC

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If Congress doesn't act before next Friday, March 1, the automatic spending cuts that would take effect would result in cutbacks for air traffic controllers, President Obama said on Tuesday. The FAA budget could be cut by $600 million, and controllers would likely be furloughed for one day per pay period through the end of September, according to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "The result will be felt across the country, as the volume of travel must be decreased," he said in a letter to the Senate appropriations committee last week. Aviation safety staff also would have to cut their hours on the job, with impacts on airlines, airplane manufacturers, and pilots that need their services, LaHood said.

LaHood said the budget cuts also could delay the implementation of NextGen technologies "for years to come." In a study of the likely impacts of the sequester, completed in December, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said services, programs and pilot training would be affected. "As the front line safety professionals in the aviation community, it is our role to warn the rest of the country that these cuts will be detrimental to our National Airspace System and the economy," NATCA President Paul Rinaldi said. "We urge Congress to act to prevent the sequester before it's too late." Already, the threat of sequester has been cited for the cancellation of several military airshows across the country, including last week's cancellation of an event at Langley Air Force Base, Va. Other military shows also have been called off -- a March show at Luke Air Force Base, in Arizona, and a show scheduled for May at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, in North Carolina. Other shows, such as the U.S. Navy's El Centro air show in California, are moving ahead but have announced that some military aircraft will not appear due to budget concerns.