FAA Budget Cuts: Go for the Paper Clips

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If you're a student of the First Amendment—especially the part about redress of grievances—aviation gave you a great week. If you're a frustrated deficit hawk—that's my tribe—it was further cause for despair and yet another lesson in how we the people contribute mightily to tying the government into one hopelessly tangled knot.

Specifically, the Air Line Pilots Association, Airlines for America and the Regional Airline Association sued the FAA to prevent it from beginning to furlough controllers this week as a budget cutting measure. Recall that the week prior, the bipartisan Protect Our Skies Act seeks to stop the FAA from closing 149 contract control towers, again, in part, to save the $637 million the FAA must cut from its budget under the Budget Control Act of 2011, otherwise known as sequestration.

The lawsuit claims that the petitioning groups would be irreparably harmed by the controller furloughs and that the cuts aren't necessary anyway. Lending support to the claim that the FAA is just trying to cause the public pain in order to extract more money from the national wallet, Sen. Tom Coburn said the agency could make smarter cuts, including reduced spending on consultants, supplies and travel—the paper clip strategy. Coburn said the FAA could save even larger sums by trimming the airport improvement program. He failed to mention, however, that pork-seeking legislators in 2011 made the Airport Grant-in-Aid program exempt from budget cutting, effectively making it aviation's version of entitlements. Coburn, at least, voted against the Budget Control Act.

Let's break this down. No one really knows how disruptive the controller furloughs will be, but they will be disruptive to some degree. While there may be some room for fat trimming in the workforce, cutting the typical Center or TRACON shift by 20 percent isn't the way to go about it and, as Coburn rightly points out, there must surely be better ways to trim fat. It's thus easy to see why the lawsuit has merit even if it's not possible to know if a court will see it that way.

Implicit in the lawsuit's pleading and Coburn's argument is that budget cutting can be done intelligently and with finesse to spread cuts around evenly. But, perversely, Congress and the administration specifically designed the Budget Control Act to be the nuclear option, with cuts so draconian that they would never be enacted, thus forcing Congress to the table to enact responsible budget reform. Never happened and even though agencies like the FAA don't need encouragement to engage in meat cleaver budgeting, that's exactly what the Budget Control Act did and continues to do. Thus, redress comes via the courts.

Coming full circle back to the tower closures, it's not all the fault of Congress. Our advocacy groups—with AOPA as the leading example—argued forcefully that none of the 149 should be closed and with the whiff of pork in the breeze, the bi-partisan Protect Our Skies Act seeks to keep the lights on in all of them. (It should really be called the Government-Funded Full Employment Act.) Here, AOPA had an opportunity to engage in the special interest version of Coburn's smart budgeting that we could all cheer, but instead, it saw the issue as a fund raising opportunity to sustain what looks ever more like a hedge fund operation. I've gotten two fund raising letters from AOPA in as many months, one claiming the tower closures were the biggest threat GA has ever faced. Please.

Based on our surveys and e-mail, I'm confident that the sentiment among pilots and owners is overwhelmingly that some of these towers should be closed and many shouldn't have been opened in the first place. Just as assuredly, some shouldn't be closed, either. But to determine which is which requires responsible governance and management and meaningful representation from our advocacy groups.

Both are sadly lacking.

LATE A.M. MONDAY UPDATE: Well, that didn't take long. Adding this from the Tampa Airport, where my flight to Atlanta has been delayed 45 minutes due, says Delta, to "effects of the ongoing budget sequestration." So the pain begins.

Comments (75)

Where was AOPA during the SFRA implementation? That to me was much more an issue than this tower closure business. The TFR and user fee issue is a much greater threat to GA than this tower closure issue is. I too received fund raising letters from AOPA (26 year member) about the tower closures and I promptly pitched them in the trash. I just flew into and out of BDR after their tower closed for the night and had no problem getting my outbound clearance from New York approach going to TEB while still on the ground in BDR. I do feel for the persons who will be furloughed. Having been through that 3 times I know that it is no fun and I would not wish that to anyone.

Posted by: matthew wagner | April 21, 2013 7:19 PM    Report this comment

Hmmm ... controller salaries are pretty darn lucrative, for the most part. Has anyone thought of asking them to accept pay cuts vs. furloughs which -- mostly does the same thing? Airline pilots have been doing this for years ... why not the FAA?

I flew a maintenance flight at St Augustine last week and while I was orbiting overhead, at one point there were 20 airplanes in the flow. Three outbound, three inbound, four in the pattern and seven taxiing for takeoff plus three already clear after landing. Toss in two active flight schools with foreign students with hard to understand accents, some serious bizjets including a BBJ and maybe Patty Wagstaff using the adjacent 'box' plus an aerospace company flying Navy jets and you have an amalgam for disaster. Meanwhile, just down the road is a new tower that no one wanted anyways, an occasional jet or military helicopter stopping at the restaurant and it never was on the closure schedule. Seems to me that punishing the public with PAIN was the major decision point in the flawed selection process.

First the FAA convinces us that they need to put a tower on darn near every runway in Florida for safety reasons and then they say that they can close them and safety won't be impacted. Which is it, Mr. Huerta?

Posted by: Larry Stencel | April 22, 2013 2:49 AM    Report this comment

Sorry, I have had a us PPL for32 years, flown a lot in the US, but I just dont get it. What is that fuss about???Cutting 637Mio from 16.000 Mio is a mere 4%. I don't know any business that would make a big fuss about cutting 4% of costs. Surely there is enough fat in the FAA to cut 4%. Close a couple of towers, layoff some of those 47000 less 15000 controllers = 32000 people no-one knows what exactly they are doing anyway, and if all of that does not help, well for gods sake let them "work" longer! In Germany, just when tradeunions pushed for a 35 hour week state-employees saw an increase in their weekly "workload" from 40 hours to 42 hours, a 5% increase that I don't think anybody got sick over. I know it, I am a state employee myself, and I don't see or have heard of anybody that is a overworked stateemployee ...

Posted by: Joe Wuensche | April 22, 2013 4:13 AM    Report this comment

"If you're a student of the First Amendment—especially the part about redress of grievances—aviation gave you a great week."

If you're a student of the Constitution you have to wonder by what right the FAA exists in the first place.

Posted by: Rod Peet | April 22, 2013 4:25 AM    Report this comment

It seems FAA has ignored their role is to provide service to the country and not the other way around.

I think the whole notion of furloughs is based on the erroneous judgement that sequester cuts will be restored when Americans feel the pain of the poor management. If there was a real attempt to make permanent cuts as the sequester implies then the functions and especially the management structure of the FAA would have been adjusted rather than just spreading the cuts over the entire employee population.

I will refrain from suggesting all the rational FAA cuts. However, I noticed the first thing mentioned was elimination of medical certificates. They serve only two purposes - both of them improper roles for government: Provide medical qualification for airline employees; and restrict general aviation pilots from performing their roles based on prejudices rather than science. The airlines should provide their own pilot medical qualification. The third class medical has been proven worthless by the Sport Pilot program. While there might be a problem with Sport Pilot safety this is not a result of the driver's license medical qualification.

If the FAA can't manage its operations with a small permanent cut in funding then it seems congress must make the micro-management decisions for them. That suggests the management, and particularly the top level management, of the FAA needs to be cut and/or replaced.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | April 22, 2013 5:04 AM    Report this comment

In an unscientific poll in a national type club the take was that 11 of the 149 towers were needed - the rest - CTAF would do just fine.

THAT SAID - at one of the "unloved" towers last week I heard a controller offering much needed "advisories" to a student pilot which included "you might want to think about turning your base now" (student was almost a mile out to sea and 4 miles downwind of the airport); "you seem a little low on final" (the student was almost in the weeds on a 2 mile final) and "maybe you should full stop and taxi round" (a touch and go with 2,000ft remaining of 4,500ft seeming ill advised given what had gone before). The friendly guiding advice offered as "perhaps you might like to's" certainly improved safety.

Setting aside the possibility that the CFI should perhaps not have signed the student off for a solo to another towered airport - the point has been made elsewhere. The loss of towers is going to lead to a lot more students turning up at the remaining towered airports - throwing a further load on the system. Add to that the loss of choice of towers and weather and the training program is going to get severely impacted as you wait for the right weather to make it to the remaining towered airports.

Intelligent cuts would see in order - sure - close some of those un-needed towers - but leave a sufficient scattering of them to keep the training programs viable.

Sorry - I cussed - Write out 100 times:

Mustn't use the word "intelligent".

Posted by: Graeme Smith | April 22, 2013 6:37 AM    Report this comment

Um, the FAA already HAS done the things suggested in the article, cut non-essential travel, cut back on supplies, cut back on training, cut back on surveillance, etc.

Posted by: James Howery | April 22, 2013 6:37 AM    Report this comment

Yep. Thanks Paul for a breath of fresh air. We love to blame everyone except the face we see in the mirror. Hope to shake your hand some day.

Posted by: LEONARD ASSANTE | April 22, 2013 7:16 AM    Report this comment

Believe me, there's plenty of room for smart budget cuts at the FAA! Last year, I completed a homebuilt, had it inspected by a DAR (private individual doing airworthiness inspection with permission of FAA - for profit) and he traveled to my location, did the inspection and paperwork and we were done in an hour! HOWEVER, I had to travel 100 miles to the FAA FSDO to get my repairman's certificate. The office was extremely secure, security-wise - guess that's to keep anyone out so they won't see that not much work is going on! The individual examining my paperwork was very pleasant and looked quite seasoned. However, an even more-"seasoned" looking individual sat there and advised him on how to complete the forms! Two government employees spending nearly an hour to fill out a two page form! What do you think that cost in wages and benefits! Much of what the FAA does could be farmed out to private contractors, as they do with the DAR's, for far less cost and greatly increased efficiency.

Posted by: JOHN AUSTIN | April 22, 2013 7:17 AM    Report this comment

Anyone who believes a 2% cut from the future budget increases warrants these particular FAA actions; I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Even discussing the need, safety or priority of the cuts ignores that the base line budget was not cut.

Posted by: Michael Mahoney | April 22, 2013 7:28 AM    Report this comment

Good points, Paul.

Funny thing, I don't see the leaders of the large organizations of the government having any incentives to save money. Perhaps that is why it has come to this. In my child-like view, all the cabinet-level executives would be given a bonus of 100% of their salary if they implemented a plan for ongoing savings of 15% across their organizations. So often I hear "we can't do that," or, "that would be against the rules/law" for reasons why the changes considered are not acted on. Perhaps those 10-20 rules that can't be broken need to be discussed and changed so that real, effective, long term cost savings can be implemented in our large government.

Again, just a child-like pipe dream.

Posted by: John O'Shaughnessy | April 22, 2013 7:44 AM    Report this comment

Particularly with respect to the intent of the FAA to furlough controllers and other employees for one day per pay period (which apparently works out to two days per month on average), my comment is that this appears to be a deliberate attempt to create as much chaos as possible in the system, with little regard for the safety implications, and all apparently for political reasons.

The effect, on the individuals involved, seems to equate to around a 10% pay cut, with the benefit of two extra days off per month. Who else on earth, other than government employees, gets days off as compensation for pay cuts?!? I certainly didn't get any extra days off when my airline cut pilot pay by 23% some years back.

One answer, at least in terms of safety, is simply to impose the 10% pay cut and keep the days and hours worked the same. That's tough to bear, to be sure, as it was for me and all pilots who endured much greater cuts, and continue to do so today. But it would at least leave the manpower at FAA intact for the critical work many of them have to do.

Posted by: Anthony Vallillo | April 22, 2013 8:34 AM    Report this comment

Well said Paul. Certainly the FAA could make some cuts but this is simply the Obama administration trying to cause as much pain as possible. They could care less about the companies and employees who will be harmed. As far as AOPA is concerned the previous discussion about this bloated organization which has lost touch with its membership said it all. I just received my bill from Jeppesen for data base renewal for my 430. $335 for the western US; a 15% increase. Foreflight gives me the whole US, IFR and VFR for $75. I have complained to AOPA for years about the data base gouging. Seems they would rather have the advertising revenue rather than help their members. Their beloved turbine operators can afford the high prices.

Posted by: Patrick McBurnett | April 22, 2013 8:51 AM    Report this comment

Back in the early '90s, corporate downsizing was in vogue. Although the people laid off certainly felt the pain, we learned that significant efficiencies could be realized without affecting product or services. Why is it that the government cannot take a minor expense reduction without reducing essencial services?

Posted by: Thomas Reilly | April 22, 2013 9:19 AM    Report this comment

It's a scare tactic...the FAA can certantly get rid of 4% of their budget without thinking about it. They don't want to and use the word "furlough" and "sequstration" to scare the general populace into thinking that somehow we are going to be "less safe" when this whole thing kicks into gear.

Posted by: R. Doe | April 22, 2013 9:38 AM    Report this comment

Unless there's more to the 'story,' two days off/month for FAA employees is likely a ruse. I think they can take annnual leave on those days and continue to be paid bur from a different pot of money. IF they don't have annual leave on the books, there is the possibility(?)that they could use sick leave which Federal employees build up during a lifetime of work. This may be a stretch but I'll be some of them will figure a way to do it. In any event, the net result will be that the Govt shifts monies out of the pay category and into the annual leave category for those who have sufficient reserves on their books.

The FAA-as an Agency-has far too much power bestowed upon it under the "guise" of safety and has forgotten promoting aviation is also a part of the 1958 Act. If any of you have the time, find the recent FAA/AOPA 148 page report on mitigation of "Loss of Control" (spell STALL) on final accidents over 10 years. People of both organizations were travelling all over the Country to write a report that angle-of-attack devices ought to be promulgated in GA. Seems to me the FAA previously found ways to discourage such devices, now they're saying they should be considered. First they discouraged such installations and now they're saying they should be encouraged.

HEY...I have a novel idea. Lets have the AOPA Wine Club make a giant donation to the FAA so they don't have to cut anything. With the remaining monies, they could buy every aircraft ownder an AOA system.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | April 22, 2013 9:59 AM    Report this comment

The problem is in the mirror.

Forget for the moment the FAA (we all have strong emotions about the FAA) and look at the post office. Congress told the post office to act like a private business in 1971, but every time they try, Congress says "NO". Why? Because their constituants scream. We want services, but we don't want to pay for them.

The problem is in the mirror.

Posted by: D. M. Perry | April 22, 2013 10:10 AM    Report this comment

It might be a really good time for AOPA or EAA, rather than wrining their hands, to suggest the FAA reduce the number of towers, shrink the existing class B and generally reduce their "workload". The idea that air traffic controllers control air traffic is destructive and wrong. I suspect an increase in safety would eventually ensue.

With existing relatively inexpensive traffic alert systems like Xaon and TIS-B, people can separate themselves. They routinely do it at OSH at a density that would make the most jaded TRACON's head swim.

Posted by: Bruce Campbell | April 22, 2013 2:00 PM    Report this comment

There is no question of Administrative malicious intent here. We need to remember the internal Administration email that clearly indicated direction from above to make sure the cuts were "not contradicting what we said the impact would be." And you will recall that the prez promised dire cuts.

The most relevant information I found on the subject is summarized on the Boarding Area blog by Gary Leff:

".... the FAA budget goes up year-over-year (in nominal terms) even under the sequester, and air traffic control is handling 27% fewer departures than prior to 9/11 with a budget that’s 41% higher (again, nominal $)."

For more details, go here:

enter "sequester" in the search box in the upper right hand corner, and follow the rabbit trails.

Posted by: S. Lanchester | April 22, 2013 2:11 PM    Report this comment

Controllers do not have the option of substituting other types of leave in lieu of leave without pay.

Posted by: Jennifer Carr | April 22, 2013 3:01 PM    Report this comment

Government cannot cut waste when budget cuts are required.

They have to make cuts the taxpayers can see.

So they keep the waste and do things that help them get even with those dirty guys who cut their money!

It's a fact of life in politics.

Is there a solution? Well, yeah, there is. Keep cutting funds until a loud squeak is heard.

Eventually you will get to the waste. It shouldn't have to be that way but it is.

Posted by: Steve Waechter | April 22, 2013 4:37 PM    Report this comment

I got a 10% pay cut awhile back and about a 20% increased work load to go along with it. But hey, that is private enterprise. I was happy to keep my job. That is part of the problem with government work-a job for life.

Posted by: Gilbert Pierce | April 22, 2013 4:54 PM    Report this comment

Our local VOR is in danger of being shit off the next time it needs repair. As soon as replacement parts are depleted from inventory, the next breakdown requiring that part will shut off the VOR. An attempt to cannibalize VORs that already went down will be done. So this field I am on will lose the nav, awos and approach functions. Next time the FAA issues an AD because they found a few a/c in a type fleet with a loose bolt, for safety's sake, remember this.

Posted by: Michael Mahoney | April 22, 2013 5:59 PM    Report this comment

Oops. Meant to say shut.

Posted by: Michael Mahoney | April 22, 2013 6:01 PM    Report this comment

Or maybe pinched.

Posted by: Michael Mahoney | April 22, 2013 6:02 PM    Report this comment

NDBs have largely been decommissioned (though there are a few still around, mainly in Alaska), and VORs are in the process of either being decommissioned or left to die a slow death (like Michael above, there's a local VOR that has been slowly degrading over time at the airfield I fly out of). LORAN has also been unceremoniously decommissioned a few years back. This is rapidly leaving GPS and XM/ADS-B WX as our only source of navigation and "passive" en-route weather. It's hard to imagine that with all these ground-based navids being decommissioned, the FAA still needs more money to keep the towers opened and controllers on station when they previously were able to do it all, especially considering they aren't maintaining the GPS satellites. Is NextGen (and the required ground-based transmitters) that expensive?

Posted by: Gary Baluha | April 23, 2013 8:59 AM    Report this comment

My home field(KOWD), is slated to lose its tower. In terms of operations we are between two much bigger class C fields. We had more operations last year (147K) than MHT or BDL, and slightly behind PVD, and OSH. If anyone should keep their tower (based on operations) its us. Going "non-towered" will work however, if 2 conditions are met. 1) We must keep the present CTAF frequency, so we don't get clogged by calls from distant patterns, and 2) we need an RCO for clearances (not presently in the plans). While the politics at the top smell bad, I have trouble blaming the FAA for making an effort to defend its turf. They are following orders. My Washington Lawyer relative calls this the "Washington Monument Ploy". Whenever the Parks Service gets its budget cut, the first place they close is the Washington Monument. The larger problem here is "Big Government" in general, and the folly of the present administration. Most of the FAA are good people, but we could do with a smaller FAA, and a smaller Government. While the FAA's issues are important to us (me anyway) perhaps we should focus on an administration that tries to spend its way out of historic levels of debt. Soon other countries will lose all confidence in the dollar (some already have). Then we will have to do this for real, and that will hurt.

Posted by: kim peck | April 23, 2013 12:30 PM    Report this comment

Those concerned about loss of VORs should note: there is discussion in the fy2014 FAA budget about creating a Minimum Operating Network (MON) of VHF Omnirange Stations. The plan is for saving money.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | April 23, 2013 12:57 PM    Report this comment


They could restore nationwide Loran-C for about 2% of what it will cost to keep those VORTACs in service. Of course, that would require that they admit that shutting down Loran was a mistake. What do you suppose the chances of that are?

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | April 24, 2013 6:37 AM    Report this comment

The FAA requested $15.172 billion for FY2013, but the Continuing Resolution – passed last fall – locked in funding levels of $16.668 billion. The FAA’s sequester hit will be just $669 million, which means their post-sequester funding level of $15.999 billion will still be above their original request.

You read that right! The FAA is getting more than they need – more than they asked for – even after sequester cuts.


Posted by: Robert Colby | April 24, 2013 7:26 AM    Report this comment

FAA Flight Delays An Old Bureaucratic Game

The idea that our air traffic system can't take a 5% belt-tightening without falling apart is proof this is an inept, wasteful, politicized government bureaucracy — one that's badly led and overdue for privatization.

That's where Congress should be stepping in.

While several members of the House and Senate have made statements about this odious gamesmanship,the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee should be calling these FAA officials in — just as was done with tobacco and Toyota executives — and make recently confirmed FAA administrator Michael Huerta and his minions explain, line by line, why their budget priorities hit precisely at delays to air travel instead of the $2.7 billion in nonpersonnel costs in its budget, including $500 million for consultants, $325 million for supplies and travel and $8 million for conferences.

"I'm not sure how the FAA justifies spending hundreds of millions of dollars on consultants and conferences, while furloughing air traffic controllers," said Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican who chairs the Committee on Energy and Commerce.


Posted by: Robert Colby | April 24, 2013 7:47 AM    Report this comment

Good Grief!!! Been flying airlines for over 60 years and then myself for over 50 years. When the idiotic media quotes people saying, " I was 30 minutes late in Atlanta and one said she had a 20 minute delay at Dulles,it's ridiculous. In all my years of flying, by airline and myself, anytime you were in a 20 to 30 minute range, "THAT" s on time. Get serious. Weather and computer and mechanical problems are the cause of the majority of delays. American's computer broke down the other daqy and 900 flights were cancelled. No,. Not delayed.

Posted by: John Hruban | April 24, 2013 7:50 AM    Report this comment

@Larry Stencel: FAA employees are prohibited from using annual leave, comp time, or sick leave to "make up" for furlough days. The furlough days are real. At least 8 hours each pay period is required to be unpaid.

The FAA is a personnel heavy organization. When cuts are required they have to come from personnel actions. Congress and the White House are to blame for this mess - not the FAA.

Posted by: Bob Holdridge | April 24, 2013 8:46 AM    Report this comment

Once again the FAA demonstrates its' overarching role for the community: 'we are not happy until you are not happy'

Posted by: Frank Loeffler | April 24, 2013 9:19 AM    Report this comment

I'll bet O'Reilly would love to give you a few minutes.

You have a 24 Apr 13 AVweb podcast by Russ Niles with Scott Condi, President of the National Air Traffic Controllers in Oakland. In response to a question about adapting to sequester cuts, he says "it's not (possible to adapt)" and goes on to say the cuts "require" slowing volume and complexity. He sounds very compelling and from his perspective, inside a system he has no authority to alter, he may be correct. And that's a larger part of the problem.

Of course, many of Mr Condi's statements are contradicted by several of your correspondents above. Taking some of the points covered here about the built-in reluctance to really cut anything permanently, plus Condi's comments, to a guy with a really big megaphone couldn't hurt. It's possible we've stumbled on the only way to actually cut an entrenched bureaucracy - sequester.

From experience in Air Force budgeting I can tell you budget cuts are painful, but the pain of impacts (real or perceived) helps to clarify values and issues. When in such conditions, the only solution is to prioritize, and that is the point at which the adult leadership has to make decisions.

Posted by: DANIEL DEDONA | April 24, 2013 10:33 AM    Report this comment

The last thing we need now is a reprieve from sequester, ugly though conditions may continue to get. The only thing revoking sequester will do is sustain the system Mr Condi says cannot adapt (a questionably useful outcome), and will quickly result in additional money (which we don't have) to make even more parts of the system inflexible (out of the control of anyone but a stalemated Congress and President).

There are always alternatives. I had a flight a few days ago, picking up light rime at around 7000, and asked for VFR on top to 8500. While ATC pondered that, I started climbing and got a rebuke for climbing without permission. My response was "unable - need to get out of this ice". Probably should have mentioned ice in the first place (my apologies), but it was not a criminal offence, and that was all that was said.

The underlying authority of pilots to do what they need to do flies in the face of top-down, inflexibly controlled systems. In fact, it allows much more traffic of all kinds than a purely controller-based system will ever be able to handle.

Posted by: DANIEL DEDONA | April 24, 2013 10:35 AM    Report this comment

This is not to say we should all do whatever we want, but there is flex in the system based on an earlier notion of how to manage the skies that has at it's foundation a relationship between pilots and control, not the notion of "bow, kneel, yield" to the system. There are places for even that ("climb immediately and turn to 180" comes to mind) but it's not always and everywhere, and it's applied when and where appropriate.

You and O'Reilly could conceivably shine some light on this in a way that might get some folks to fess up, and maybe even force useful action.

Posted by: DANIEL DEDONA | April 24, 2013 10:36 AM    Report this comment

Yes there is fat to be trimmed from EVERY Government agency but this is ridiculous. There are no real budget cuts, people are getting furloughed because they were deemed some "fat". There is no way the 54 billion in question of the sequestration "cuts" had anything to do with it. Those funds were cut from the rate of increase of annual government growth not from existing operating budgets. This just means that all the brother in law deals that were going to be made by the unions to hire more people we didn't really need on the government dole got a slowdown. Let's face it, the massive extortion machine that the unions have become are akin to Al Capone holding a Chicago typewriter to the back of uncle Sam's skull with Elliot Ness nowhere to be found. I know guys who work at an airline that was in "negotiations" a while back and no flight was on time during that period, I wonder why???

Posted by: Joe Bouza | April 24, 2013 10:44 AM    Report this comment

Flying the Government Skies
The 4% FAA spending cut that somehow delays 40% of flights. Apr 24, 2013
The White House claims the sequester applies to the budget category known as “projects, programs and activities” and thus it lacks flexibility. Not so: This is a political pose to make the sequester more disruptive. Legally speaking, the sequester applies at a more general level known as “accounts.” The air traffic account includes 15,000 controllers out of 31,000 employees. The White House could keep the controllers on duty simply by allocating more furlough days to these other non-essential workers.

Instead, the FAA is even imposing the controller furlough on every airport equally, not prioritizing among the largest and busiest airports. San Francisco’s Napa Valley airport with no commercial service will absorb the same proportion of the cuts as the central New York radar terminal, which covers La Guardia, JFK and Newark International, as well as MacArthur, Teterboro, New Haven, Republic and other regional fields.

Posted by: Robert Colby | April 24, 2013 12:15 PM    Report this comment

As the comments above indicate, any issue the Congress gets their hands on, whether it's guns, immigration, the Pentagon budget, fiscal policy or FAA operations, will be FUBAR in short order, and there is no solution to be had short of a national housecleaning. We'll just bump along the bottom dragging our national derriere until the next thing comes along to occupy their attention. To paraphrase Howard Stern, 'if members of Congress didn't resemble people so much, it would be legal to hunt them!'

Posted by: Keith Bumsted | April 24, 2013 2:24 PM    Report this comment

Of the 46,200+ people working at the FAA nearly 75% (33,800) work in the "air traffic" organization, with Aviation safety following closely by 16.5% in safety (7660 bodies) the guys working on NextGen (~1000) don't even outnumber the folks in Finance and management (1500)

So, what does one cut, except, as Dilbert would say, their most valuable assets, namely their workforce? So if you want to cut 10%, you need to eliminate ~4600 jobs. The only other thing besides air traffic ops that's big enough is safety, and who wants to tell the public that is getting the axe?

It's all part of the "Washington Monument Game" Business as usual. Get used to it.

Posted by: David Rosing | April 24, 2013 2:33 PM    Report this comment

Any agency that negatively impacts public service, allegedly due to the sequester ought to have its management fired. A little top/down fear for your job needs to be instilled. The lack of prioritizing agency tasks is appalling. Time for a hatchet job.

Posted by: Michael Mahoney | April 24, 2013 2:42 PM    Report this comment

"It's all part of the "Washington Monument Game" Business as usual. Get used to it."

That is really where the problem is. Why should we, as US citizens, get used to Washington playing childish games with OUR money? If we don't make a big deal out of it, it's just the status quo for them, and is how we got into this mess in the first place.

Where sequestration can fail is if the public doesn't complain and take action about the services that are cut. If we don't take action, spending might go down, but in all the wrong areas. And I really would rather not have things be worse off for my generation (born in the early 80s) than the previous, simply because they couldn't get their act together.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | April 24, 2013 2:47 PM    Report this comment

Graeme, you shouldn't have left aside whether the CFI should have signed off on the solo. That seems like the point. Sounds like you need better CFI's in your area. I don't think you can justify a tower to make up for poor instructors.

I learned at a small untowered airport in the Blue Ridge mountains. I actually did my first solo at a neighboring airport with a longer, wider runway in a larger valley (also untowered) where we did some of our training. I know my CFI (a retired 35 year Continental pilot) would never have let me solo (especially in the mountains) if I couldn't fly any better than that.

Posted by: John Worsley | April 24, 2013 3:44 PM    Report this comment


There's plenty of top-down fear at the Agency. In this case, the Top is the White House, which quite deliberately is holding the FAA hostage, in the hopes that it can compel the Congress to rescind the entire government-wide sequester - and to boost domestic spending while they're at it.

Truly, we get the government that we deserve. Elections do matter.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | April 24, 2013 3:48 PM    Report this comment

It's true that when it comes to sequestration--the intent is to inflict maximum pain.

I recently attended a state Council of Airports meeting. We were addressed by a regional manager from the FAA. When asked why only contract towers were closing, he cited the usual litany of reasons--total ops, airline ops, etc. Finally, he said "it's easier to terminate a contract than to lay off people." We all know that contract towers are more efficient than Federal towers--but Federal towers were not cut. Like many, I'm in favor of reviewing EVERY tower for closure.

Where else can the FAA cut personnel? How about the FAA Safety Team--the guys that put on the safety seminars? As demonstrated by the Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic, private enterprise can do that far better than a $100,000 a year FAA guy.

How about letting designated examiners do ALL checkrides? Why keep FAA types current and on the payroll? Most don't like to do flight checks anyway.

Carrying it a little further, why not let Designated Pilot Examiners do Charter flight checks? Most are more current than the FAA inspectors.

Why not let Designated Engineering Representatives and Designated Airworthiness Representatives do ALL of the paperwork for STCs and Field Approvals?

The mechanism for privatizing these functions is already in place--it is far easier to do this than to dilly with the ATC system.

But then, that doesn't induce maximum pain.

Posted by: jim hanson | April 24, 2013 6:58 PM    Report this comment

Just received in the mail today--our local FSDO will be closed two Friday's a month.

NOBODY in the office. How nice for the employees--they get to take 3-day weekends. Wouldn't you think that they could use a rotating system to let each employee take two days a month off--and keep the office open?

I guess we could look at it another way--the system functions just fine on the weekends, when there is nobody in the office. One more day closed per week may not make much of a difference.

I'd say, let's try closing FSDO's ANOTHER day of the week!

Posted by: jim hanson | April 24, 2013 7:03 PM    Report this comment

President Obama hates aviation, especially GA. He sees it as a source of money, nothing more. Since congress has cut him off from any increase in funds, he has decided to take it out on Aviation in general, more on GA. As Mr Yarsley said elections do matter! I did not vote for our current president!

Posted by: matthew wagner | April 24, 2013 8:30 PM    Report this comment

A designee of the FAA, such as a Designated Engineering Representative, an Aircraft Inspector, or Designated Examiner must report pressure from his employer to authorize engineering documents, inspection documents, or airman certificates when the designee cannot find compliance with the Federal Aviation Regulations. A designee must be willing to give up his job before giving in to such pressure.

Likewise, Michael Huerta should be held to the same standard. If he cannot make the required budget adjustments without compromising safety, he should resign his position as the head of the FAA.

An additional consideration that should be taken into account is that aircraft operators and airline passengers have provided direct funding to the FAA through fuel taxes and ticket fees. The industry and the traveling public are being denied something they have already paid for.

James Badgett
Wichita, Kansas

Posted by: James Badgett | April 24, 2013 10:26 PM    Report this comment

Matthew, It's not true that President Obama hates aviation. Consider the number of hours he has spent on Air Force One, @$182,000/hour, since sequestration went into effect. In the year 2013, with the fiscal and security situations we find ourselves in, the President should be making the vast majority of his appearances from behind his desk in the Oval Office. We all know of Obama's fondness for teleprompters. He should become just as fond of video conferencing.

The people are getting what they asked for via their vote. We are forcing essential workers to take 2 unpaid days a month, but the very people responsible for the lack of leadership in Congress are headed out for another vacation. That will be their second week of vacation since the Sequestration began. The first thing that should have been cut is all of their salaries and lush benefits packages!

Posted by: James Burns | April 25, 2013 5:45 AM    Report this comment

Senators Seek Way to Ease FAA Cuts
April 24, 2013

"Complaints about air-travel delays in recent days have prompted Democrats in Congress to reconsider their strategy for dealing with across-the-board spending cuts."

"Democrat, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, on Wednesday announced legislation that would reinstate air-traffic controllers using funds generated by ending a tax break for corporate jets. Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware said he would prefer to generate additional user fees to keep the travel system running at full capacity for the next five months."

"Senior Democrats don't think lawmakers should prioritize travel delays over other effects of the sequester, such as cuts to the Head Start early-education program, according to a Senate Democratic aide."


Posted by: Robert Colby | April 25, 2013 10:25 AM    Report this comment

That's IT! The Dems have officially "jumped the shark" by proposing to keep controllers by increasing taxes--which in turn will decrease the number of aircraft needing "controlling." By the time this brilliant plan reaches full fruition, we will only need ONE controller to keep Air Force One seperated from any aircraft that makes it into the air! (sarcasm)

All of these proposals for even more taxes--and nobody can find a way to cut waste? If Hueta can't find a way to cut waste, he OUGHT to resign--or be removed.

How about privatizing aircraft registrations? There is an entire bureaucracy in OKC dealing with registrations--and an entire industry of private organizations located right across the street to deal with the bureaucracy. It wouldn't take long for the private companies to replace the bureaucrats--and money would be saved.

Posted by: jim hanson | April 25, 2013 12:55 PM    Report this comment

The FAA Strikes Again, the FAA Brags Apr 25, 2013
The bureaucracy revels in its own failures.
"FAA regional employees wrote to blow the whistle on their bosses. As one email put it, "the FAA management has stated in meetings that they need to make the furloughs as hard as possible for the public so that they understand how serious it is."

"Strategies include encouraging union workers to take the same furlough day to increase congestion. "I am disgusted with everything that I see since the sequester took place," another FAA employee wrote. "Whether in HQ or at the field level it is clear that our management has no intention of managing anything. The only effort that I see is geared towards generating fear and demonstrating failure." Just so.


Posted by: Robert Colby | April 25, 2013 1:07 PM    Report this comment

The upgrade to ATC equipment made it more reliable but it has increased the complexity of the controller job not lessened it. Instead of one screen controllers now monitor three and have traffic management and data input responsibilities that did not exist 10 years ago. We are also training a generation of controllers to replace the hundreds who are already elligible to retire and such training takes a lot of extra manpower.

Posted by: Jennifer Carr | April 25, 2013 1:29 PM    Report this comment

One of the most "dangerous" things for power-hungry government departments going on strike or on reduced activity is that people actually find out that they can very well do without them.... In the age of GPS, XM Weather and active traffic I actually think that we would be much better off just looking out for ourselves....

Posted by: ROBERT ZIEGLER | April 25, 2013 3:16 PM    Report this comment

What did people expect when you get an adminstrator who is a career bureaucrat. Hopefully those senators who approved Huerta as FAA adminstrator remember this nonsense when his 5 year term is up. I hope voters remember this come election time.

Posted by: matthew wagner | April 25, 2013 6:43 PM    Report this comment

While we debate why the FAA administrator made the cuts the way he did we simply don't even think about where and why those cuts were made. One telephone call from POTUS would stop this nonsense. A telephone call was made by HIM to hurt the individual as much as possible (even stopping school kids from White House visits)hoping his policical adversaries will be blamed. By the way, he was the one who made up the 'sequestration' law and signed by both parties. If we can't see that we shouldn't be anywhere around a controled airport.

Posted by: Bernie McAda | April 25, 2013 9:02 PM    Report this comment

Listen, I don't like the government most days. Still, the amount of ignorance regarding this here is astounding. Many people here probably complain about legislators not reading bills before voting. How about you read the bill (or at least some of it) before saying it was done this way to make a political point.

Don't even rely on government, go look at professional pages. My employer (part of their business is defense and non-defense government contracting) has known for months what to plan for after in-house counsel looked at this law. They sent an email out about it in January if I remember properly. All (non-defense) programs (not departments!) are required to cut 8.4% from their budget, not just overall, but program based. Want to blame someone with the pen? Here you go:

This procedure is spelled out in a 1985 Reagan era law called the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act, and it was written to be ironclad on spending, other than exempted programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the like.

The only way to restore funds (which this law requires to EACH program as it was written) is for congress, not the President, to redirect funding.

Posted by: Joseph Servov | April 25, 2013 9:37 PM    Report this comment

"This procedure is spelled out in a 1985 Reagan era law"

Brilliant, blame the dead guy. That was then, this is now. The current crop of bunglers are the ones who had 18 months to deal with "something so awful we can't let it happen." Now that it has happened the current crop of bunglers still haven't a clue how to deal with the mess.

Posted by: Richard Montague | April 26, 2013 10:59 AM    Report this comment

I've noticed that of all the major metro areas that have experienced or have expected delays, that Chicago is not mentioned. I wonder why?!

Posted by: matthew wagner | April 26, 2013 12:21 PM    Report this comment

Richard, I'm not absolving 435 morons (in particular, the House technically is supposed to originate spending bills) at all. I'm not even going I absolve 100 idiots in the Senate, or 2 in the White House. I am going to say that claiming the current president is doing this on purpose is wrong. He didn't sign the law that spells out how the cuts are made. No, if people want to blame a signer they can blame Reagan.

Personally, I blame the 435 morons in the House. In particular I blame the House leadership, because of how the constitution is structured. Boehner should have done his job in January and prevented this because he knew it was coming. Yes, it is his farking job to push legislation to "fix" this problem. He doesn't want to do his job? Give it o someone that will.

Posted by: Joseph Servov | April 26, 2013 12:52 PM    Report this comment

Joseph--This procedure is spelled out in a 1985 Reagan era law called the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act, and it was written to be ironclad on spending, other than exempted programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the like. "

The bill was called Graham-Rudman-Hollings--it mandated a balanced budget. It was introduced and passed by the Dem-controlled House, passed the Dem-controlled Senate, and signed by Reagan.

From Wikipedia--The process for determining the amount of the automatic cuts was found unconstitutional in the case of Bowsher v. Synar, 478 U.S. 714 (1986) and Congress enacted a reworked version of the law in 1987.[3][dead link] Gramm-Rudman failed, however, to prevent large budget deficits. The Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 supplanted the fixed deficit targets."

It was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court--as one Congress cannot bind a future Congress.

Pretty hard to blame Reagan for a bill that passed both Dem-controlled houses--was found to be unconstituional--and never used.

Posted by: jim hanson | April 26, 2013 1:46 PM    Report this comment

Josef--". I am going to say that claiming the current president is doing this on purpose is wrong."

That's not true. Here's a link to CBS (not exactly known as a conservative site) headlined "Obama administration struggles to illustrate pain from sequester"


The article mentions "janitors take pay cut" (not true), "teachers getting pink slips" (not true)and Homeland Security stating that there was "mass disruption at airports (there were two airport reporting minor delays, according to WSJ).

Ultimately, there is the leaked E-mail--"However you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.”

There is no doubt that the "sequestration efforts" are calculated to inflict maximum pain.

Posted by: jim hanson | April 26, 2013 2:39 PM    Report this comment

Sequestration may have been created by the current President, but it was enacted by Congress. Whoever came up with the idea doesn't really matter if the US government as a whole agreed to it. The part that's annoying me is that now that we're in their own self-contrived mess, all they seem to be doing is pointing fingers instead of trying to solve the problem (aside from a few who are working to at least make it less painful than it is).

I can imagine that if the W.H. and Congress were school children, the teacher would send them ALL to detention, regardless of who did what.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | April 26, 2013 4:12 PM    Report this comment

They all signed on to it--but ignored the bipartisan Simpson--Bowles Commission to make meaningful cuts. Simpson--Bowles was a PRESIDENTIAL commission appointed by Obama. The measure gained the support of 60% of the committee, but fell 3 short of the number required to send it on to the Congress for ratifification. It had true bipartisan support--an equal number of no votes from both parties to kill it.

We should adopt it--and end this "gamesmanship". Even better, since Congress can't control spending, pass a balanced budget amendment--which eliminates the Supreme Court challenge--the very same law that most states have.

Posted by: jim hanson | April 26, 2013 5:13 PM    Report this comment

Jim- I'm not going to say you're wrong, because I am not a lawyer myself. I will take word of a team of lawyers, over Wikipedia, in a company with offices around the US, Canada, Europe, Russia, China, and Australia.

I'll take cuts, but I want Reagan era tax rates back. In lieu of that, all income sources taxed equally at Clinton rates.

I want a constitutional amendment that any military conflict or war requires an accompanying, across the board, no tax exemptions allowed, until it is complete, war tax. Your bracket pays 10%? You pay 10% + an extra 5% per bracket level. We're at war, do with less for the duration of the conflict. Yes, this means that people near the upper brackets could be paying 70% or more on all monies. You want to see wars end quickly? Impact the "rich" (I.e. people of influence) hard. That's why there are no exemptions allowed. Don't believe me? Look at the ATC mess.

Posted by: Joseph Servov | April 26, 2013 6:24 PM    Report this comment

Josef--you claim "a team of lawyers with offices (all over the world)--yet you don't tell us who those lawyers ARE--or who they represent.

You attempt to discredit Wikipedia--yet you don't say WHY they are in error. Where is Wikipedia wrong?

I gave you the name of the law--you can look it up yourself. I provided the title of the Supreme Court case--you can look it up for yourself. I included the name of the subsequent law--you can look it up yourself.

The end result--it was approved by bipartisan support in both houses, and signed by the President.

We can eliminate all of this posturing by simply passing a Constitutional Amendment requiring Congress to pass a balanced budget. The vast majority of Americans WANT that amendment--if Congress or the Administration doesn't introduce it, it is because THEY don't want it.

Posted by: jim hanson | April 27, 2013 12:04 PM    Report this comment

Jim- I'll take your "balanced budget" amendment, but I won't get into that here. You can email me joseph_servov at Yahoo. I can virtually guarantee, however, you probably won't like the results of a truly balanced budget and what it will take to obtain one.

I can't name my employer, but I'm in Oshkosh, WI. I'll leave you to determine who my employer is from that information. The company employs several teams of lawyers worldwide. They have to, maintaining compliance in so many countries requires this. They started prepping for layoffs at the beginning of the year after the US based lawyers read what was going to happen, from the law itself. Now you can hem and haw, and claim the president is doing this to be dramatic. The fact is a team of lawyers at a multi-billion dollar company read the law and said its going to cause X cuts across the board, and there is no way of avoiding them minus the government passing Y. Gee, "X" came true because the House never originated Y! (I'm a constitutionally oriented guy. The House's job is to originate spending bills. The fact the Senate had to do it first here means they are shirking their job.) Heck, the lawyers knew what "X" was before it was the president made his speech about it! Those lawyers must be psychic! (Continued)

Posted by: Joseph Servov | April 27, 2013 1:48 PM    Report this comment

Okay, so I'm getting hyperbolic there. The point being that for everything you've heard about (ATC) there are at least five things you (or even myself, because I only know what I have to deal with) don't have a clue about. You know what the "media" has decided you should know.

Don't ever let anyone tell you the media is liberal or conservative. The media is corporate. The media is about money, and what they have to sell to make it. MSNBC sells to liberals, Fox sells to conservatives. Both lie worse than a kid caught with their hand in the cookie jar. I don't believe the media (NBC, CBS, ABC, or Fox) because their job is to make profits. Profits are made selling ads. Ads are sold by sucking in eyeballs. Eyeballs typically gravitate towards conflict and yellow journalism. Facts don't sell very well, or CNN's Headline News would still be staffed with smiling screen readers repeating the same facts every 30 minutes.

Posted by: Joseph Servov | April 27, 2013 1:49 PM    Report this comment

On the contrary, I would LOVE a balanced budget amendment. What works for people, corporations, and almost every state would work for the Federal government. Usually, people ask "what about special circumstances?" That was addressed the last time--a supermajority can over-ride it.

You say your company started preparing "the year after the lawyers read what was going to happen." That would be 2012, since sequester passed in Aug. 2011--or only 7 months ago. That's STILL a lot better than what the Administration did to the airlines--the week before last, the airlines met with the Administration TWICE--no mention of what they would enact--then had to deal with it LAST week. Hardly fair, is it?

You say ""X" came true because the House never originated Y!......The fact the Senate had to do it first here means they are shirking their job."

Would that be the SAME House that originated MULTIPLE budgets, yet not ONE was allowed to be heard in the Senate?

Would that be the SAME Senate that, contrary to law, never proposed a budget? Would that be the SAME Administration, that contrary to law, never proposed a budget? (sarcasm)

Posted by: jim hanson | April 27, 2013 4:22 PM    Report this comment

cont.) Those are the very reasons we need a balanced budget amendment--the Bozo's in Washington not only can't rein in their own spending, but they refuse to follow the law. How about a law that cuts their pay in half if they don't come up with a budget, as required?

Josef--"for everything you've heard about (ATC) there are at least five things you (or even myself, because I only know what I have to deal with) don't have a clue about. You know what the "media" has decided you should know." Yet you don't say WHAT you have to deal with--c'mon, it isn't a big secret, TELL us! How else would we know whether it is true or not?

I'm an FBO operator, with 19 airplanes. Next Wednesday will mark 50 years since my first solo. I'm rated in all classes and categories except the blimp--owned 538 airplanes, flown 312 unique types, and been in the FBO business for 42 years. I write articles for aviation magazines--including that aviation organization based in Oshkosh. Don't tell ME that "I don't have a clue"--I still fly over 600 hours a year in everything from LSAs to corporate jets.

Some of your statements just don't hold up--they are easy to disprove. Debate the FACTS--and give reference to sources to support them--not vague "Hints".

Posted by: jim hanson | April 27, 2013 4:34 PM    Report this comment

What will really be telling is how the FAA handles the contract control towers. The new spending authorization provides them with the needed money, but because a minority in congress squawked about it, the specific provision for FCTs had to be taken out. If the FAA starts talking about how they STILL have to cut the towers, it'll be clear that it's because someone in power doesn't like GA.

Now, you would think that the spending specifically includes the FCTs, but that's not entirely true. At least, that's what I've been informed of by one of the people in the know, who's job is on the line (I have a full-time non-aviation job, so I can't always read all the bills myself).

Posted by: Gary Baluha | April 27, 2013 5:42 PM    Report this comment

Isn't it odd that the FAA "found" $358 million in "unspent" money that they were able to transfer?

It's yet another example of how feckless and clueless the government bureaucracy has become--inflicting maximum pain by making the most painful cuts possible--while there is unspent money in the bank.

Kind of like running out of fuel, while there is fuel in another tank!

Posted by: jim hanson | April 27, 2013 5:47 PM    Report this comment

What I hear from the media is that the funds will come from airport improvement programs. That means you won't get your runway extension soon.

Posted by: John Worsley | April 28, 2013 12:09 PM    Report this comment

The funds weren't "encumbered"--allocated to any project. They were just in the bank.

The downside to this is that it won't eliminate programs and waste that SHOULD be cut--it will be the old "same-old--same old".

Nothing changed, except that the government will be using Airport and Airway "Trust Funds" (a misnomer if there ever was one) to fund bureacracy instead of its intended use for infrastructure.

You can bet that the Administration will continue to bleat about the need for more infrastructure spending after this debacle--never mind that the "stimulus" was ALSO supposed to be for "infrastructure."


Posted by: jim hanson | April 28, 2013 12:28 PM    Report this comment

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