Last Sunday the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it was being forced to furlough its air traffic controllers because of cuts to its budget forced by the “sequestration” that began last month. An FAA statement said that travelers could expect to see “a wide range of delays … [due to] staffing challenges.… The FAA is working with the airlines … to try to minimize delays for passengers."
Delays at major airports of up to 90 minutes were being reported late Sunday night and were spreading into Monday in New York, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Los Angeles. At New York’s John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports, delays ranged from 37 to 74 minutes for inbound and outbound passengers, while delays at the Los Angeles International Airport were as much as three hours.
Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) called the FAA furloughs a “dangerous stunt that could jeopardize the safety and security of air travelers” that could have been avoided had the FAA even attempted to do so. Instead, according to Coburn, the FAA “has made zero effort” to avoid the furloughs and the delaying of passengers.
FAA Administrator Michael Hurta said that furloughs were necessary to offset the $637 million in cuts demanded by the sequester out of its $16 billion budget — that his people “could find no other way” but to furlough all 47,000 of the agency’s employees including its 15,000 air traffic controllers. Because of the furlough — initially requiring each employee to take off one day every two weeks — planes will have to take off and land less frequently, resulting in the anticipated delays.
Editors at Investors Business Daily (IBD) saw this phony furlough coming back in February, calling it “misleading.” IBD noted that back in 2000 the FAA handled 23 percent more air traffic with fewer controllers than it employs currently: "Either air traffic controllers have gotten far less efficient over the past 13 years, or the FAA could get by with about 3,400 fewer of them without affecting the quality of air travel one bit."
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