FAA air traffic controller furloughs end

WILLIAMSTOWN – The manager of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport commented on the passage of bills by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to end air traffic controller furloughs Friday.

“The fact they got a bill organized and passed in a short amount of time is commendable,” said Terry Moore. “Both houses of Congress got the legislation together, presented and voted on in less than a week, which is surprising.”

Last Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began furloughs of 47,000 employees, including 15,000 air traffic controllers, because of the sequester. Each employee will lose one day of work every other week.

The FAA has said that planes will have to take off and land less frequently, so as not to overload the remaining controllers on duty. These furloughs led to delayed flights in some of the nation’s busiest airports.

Moore said local flights did not experience delays because of the furlough because controller hours were not cut locally or at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, where all local commercial flights begin or end.

The House legislation gives the FAA additional flexibility to address the furloughs of air traffic controllers by transferring $253 million of existing funds to the operations account.

West Virginia legislators from both major political parties made statements in support of the passed bills.

Reps. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., released statements in favor of the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013.

“Instead of continuing to make budget cuts clearly outlined in recent Government Accountability Office and Inspector General reports that could total $300 billion dollars annually, President Obama made a choice to hand-pick cutbacks that will severely impact hardworking Americans, including our airline industry,” said McKinley. “The bipartisan coalition of the U.S. House of Representatives is putting people first and not political rhetoric.”

Capito said the House is attempting to replace the sequester with more responsible budget reductions than the FAA’s choices in cuts.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., sponsored the Senate bill to halt the FAA furloughs in order to “avoid total gridlock in our aviation system” and avoid the damage travel delays would cause the economy.

“By plugging a hole in the budget and providing the FAA with crucial funds to operate the air traffic control system, we will eliminate flight delays due to inadequate staffing and keep America moving,” Rockefeller said. “This does not fix all of the problems the FAA faces because of budget cuts, especially for contract towers in rural communities.”

Capito said the funds could go to aid the 149 air traffic control towers expected to close in June, but Moore said he does not expect that to happen.

“The FAA needs to cut funds somewhere,” Moore said. “It will be interesting to see how the FAA handles this.”