What’s that old saying? Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that man behind the tree. It looks like aviation is now that guy behind the tree.
With the federal budget sequestration set for March 1 it’s starting to become clear what the across the board cuts to the federal budget will mean for aviation. And it will be significant.
The FAA, along with other departments and agencies, will share in the budget cuts. The FAA is essentially a people organization with the huge bulk of its spending for salaries and personnel expense. That means the only place to make meaningful savings is by furloughing staff.
Controllers are the biggest group of FAA employees so the ATC ranks will be thinned. Plans leaking out of the FAA call for controllers to be furloughed on a rolling schedule of perhaps one day every two weeks, or maybe more. That will mean closing of some controller sector positions, more miles in trail for traffic, and inevitable delays. It’s not impossible that whole facilities such as control towers or approach control facilities could be closed temporarily.
FSDO staff will also be furloughed causing delays in all types of FAA activities. Every type of airman, aircraft, airport or operational certification or approval will be held up for who knows how long. That may not seem like a big deal unless it is your project or license that sits on the desk.
The military is also facing broad cuts and that will deal a crushing blow to many, many air shows across the country. Obviously, the Navy Blue Angles and Air Force Thunderbird jet teams will be grounded. But so will every other military hardware appearance at air shows. And most air shows rely on the spectacular performances of military pilots and military aircraft to attract crowds. Already several shows hosted by military bases have been cancelled in anticipation of sequestration.
Because the military, like the civilian government agencies and departments, will be required to make across the board cuts it only makes sense to trim the non-essential spending first. To keep arms, fuel, food and pay flowing to the front line troops, air shows and recruiting activities must be cut first.
At EAA we’re fortunate that the big Oshkosh show is still months away and, with luck, there could be a deal in Washington that would rationalize spending cuts and make military participation possible. But air shows scheduled in March and April are already being told that military aircraft and personnel can’t participate.
One reason that the sequestration budget cuts will be so disruptive is that nearly half of the government’s fiscal year has already passed. That means the effect of a budget cut is doubled because the full reduction in spending must be made in the remaining half of the fiscal year.
If you feel strongly about sequestration and the cuts it will bring the only possible remedy is to contact your congressman and senators. Spending reduction seems inevitable, but are rigid across the board budget cuts the best way to go? That’s a question only Washington can answer. But it seems to me that all of aviation, especially air shows, and the military, are in line for disproportionate suffering if the sequestration cuts become real on March 1. What do you think?
If you would like to contact your senators or congressman EAA has a new online capability for members to use called Rally Congress. This online service identifies your congressman and senators based on your residence. Rally Congress will help you format an electronic letter and deliver it promptly. Rally Congress service works with Congressional staffers to be sure the electronic letters are in a format that is most effective, and are delivered to the correct email address so they will be read.
At this time we at EAA think it is helpful to urge your representative and senators to join the GA Caucus. Members of the GA Caucus take a special interest in issues involving private flying. In the past the Caucus has been helpful in passing the Pilots’ Bill of Rights, defeating proposed user fees, and making sure GPS signals are protected from interference.
To use Rally Congress to urge your congressional delegation to support the GA Caucus go to this link: http://eaa.org/rallycongress Those in Washington may not always do what we want, but I do know they listen to voters like you.