Effect of shutdown on FAA service will depend on how long stalemate continues

The bulk of the Federal Aviation Administration safety staff members who inspect airports, aircraft and pilots will be furloughed – at least, initially – because of the government shutdown.

The union that represents members of the Office of Aviation Safety on Monday blasted the FAA for furloughing its members.

On Tuesday, an FAA spokeswoman said the Aviation Safety Organization, normally with 7,000 employees, will keep 310 people on through the early days of the shutdown, including managers in all field offices who will monitor the system and call back employees as necessary.

If the furlough extends beyond a few days, the FAA will start recalling up to 2,500 employees, including safety inspectors, engineers and technical support staff, depending on need.

Victor White, director of airports for the Wichita Airport Authority, said that his understanding is that the flying public shouldn’t notice any changes in Wichita in the short term.

“I’m sure the longer the shutdown is in effect, things could change,” he wrote in an e-mail.

According to an FAA planning document, functions unaffected by the shutdown include: air traffic control, maintenance of navigational aids, flight standards field inspections; airmen medical certifications; aircraft certification services (limited); hazardous materials safety inspections; security information communication services; continuity of operations planning; air traffic safety oversight (limited); on-call accident investigations; commercial space launch oversight for at least one scheduled launch; regional and Washington-based command, control, and communications; and any function tied to other sources of funding or multi-year funding.

Those functions that will be suspended include: development of new air traffic control specialists not certified to work a position; aviation rule making; facility security inspections, evaluations, audits and inspections; routine personnel security background investigations; development of NextGen technologies; air traffic performance analysis; capital planning for FAA facilities and equipment; dispute resolution; audit and evaluation; financial operations; employee drug-testing program; law enforcement assistance support; congressional liaison services.

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