By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Federal budget cuts scheduled to take effect in January could result in the closure of 246 airport control towers and the loss of 1,200 air traffic controller jobs, according to a report (PDF) by the Aerospace Industries Association, released on Monday. The $1.2 trillion "sequestration" cuts, which will take effect on Jan. 2 unless Congress reaches agreement on a deficit-reduction plan, could also delay implementation of the next-gen ATC system by a decade or more, AIA said. Craig Fuller, president of AOPA, said, "The likely effects of sequestration on general aviation safety and efficiency are truly frightening."
Besides the controllers, 600 FAA jobs in safety and aircraft certification would be lost, Fuller said, resulting in "devastating and lasting impacts on our national air transportation system and everyone who uses it." Norman Mineta, a former U.S. transportation secretary, told Bloomberg News in an interview, "I just hope we don't go off the cliff. There's got to be some collective effort by the executive branch and the legislative branch to forestall the total impact of sequestration." How sequestration would be imposed upon the FAA remains unclear, according to the AIA report. "There is a lot of uncertainty about how it will play out," Ken Mead, a former Transportation Department inspector general, told Bloomberg. "But there is going to be a lot of pain unless they unravel this. A lot of this will be indiscriminate pain. They better get on with it. Time is running out."