While the National Airspace System remains open and accessible to all aircraft, the government shutdown, which began Saturday morning, could affect thousands of owners, operators and pilots if it persists. Air traffic control and all the associated operations are designated as essential services but most of the FAA’s ground-bound services will be shuttered during the shutdown. Perhaps the biggest impact will come from the closure of aircraft registration services. That will, of course, prevent aircraft sales but it will also affect owners whose registration is expiring during the shutdown.Flying with expired registration is illegal and NBAA estimates 10,000 registrations expire every month. Leaders of six GA organizations wrote Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Sunday urging her to staff the registry office in Oklahoma City under the Antideficiency Act, which requires the government to maintain services “vital toprotectionof human life and property.” The GA groups say maintaining an up-to-date registry is essential for oversight and to fulfill the U.S.’s international legal obligations. Flight Standards District Offices are all but closed and the services normally provided suspended.
There is a host of agencies besides the FAA that are involved in aircraft operations that are also affected by the shutdown. Aircraft returning to the U.S. from other countries have to keep an eye on the normal opening hours of the ports of entry they will be using for customs and immigration inspections because overtime services might not be available. The TSA will continue to run but some offices of the department of transportation will be closed. NBAA says a prolonged closure could have severe effects on general aviation that will persist for months to come. There’s already an aircraft registration backlog and the shutdown will create an even larger stack of applications to deal with when staffers finally return to work.