ATC Sequester Furloughs Now In Effect

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Despite efforts on several fronts to stop or at least postpone the FAA's furloughs of air traffic controllers, which are mandated by the federal budget sequester, the staffing cuts began on Sunday. By midafternoon on Monday, delays up to three hours had been reported at major airports in New York, Los Angeles, and Baltimore, but it wasn't clear to what extent a shortage in controller staffing could be blamed for any particular delay. "The delays could have been worse had the controllers not stayed after their shifts at key facilities like LAX Tower and Atlanta Terminal Radar Approach Control," said NATCA in a statement on Monday. "Controllers did their jobs yesterday by keeping things moving safely, and as best they could manage during these unusual circumstances, efficiently."

Delays are expected to worsen as the week goes on, NATCA said, unless "steps [are] taken to cancel or postpone the furloughs until a solution that keeps controllers on the job full-time can be found." All FAA employees, including 15,000 controllers, are required to take 11 days of unpaid leave by the end of September to help the agency save $637 million. The cuts amount to a staffing reduction of about 10 percent for the air traffic system. The furloughs should be "halted immediately," NATCA said. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said safety "will not be compromised." Flight delay information is posted online by the FAA.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the FAA said more than 1,200 delays in the system on Monday were attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furlough. On Tuesday, the FAA was experiencing staffing challenges at the New York and Los Angeles En Route Centers and at the Dallas-Ft. Worth and Las Vegas TRACONs. "Controllers will space planes farther apart so they can manage traffic with current staff, which will lead to delays at airports including DFW, Las Vegas and LAX," the FAA said. "The FAA also expects delays at Newark and LaGuardia [on Tuesday] because of weather and winds."