Sequestration and our safety

February 25, 2013 by Craig Fuller

As most of you know, President Obama and the U.S. Congress are in the throes of debate over federal sequestration and the resulting $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect March 1.
The cuts will take place automatically unless Congress acts to stop them. Politics aside, the impact on our safety and freedom to fly could be severe.

Dramatic and arbitrary cuts to our aviation system could compromise the safety of ourselves, our passengers, and our fellow aviators.

I am blogging about this today because I believe it is important for all AOPA members to understand how a government sequester will affect us as pilots, aircraft owners, and aviation enthusiasts. I also want you to know how AOPA’s regulatory and government affairs experts are working to mitigate the damage to general aviation.

Last Friday, the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration wrote to AOPA and several other aviation organizations detailing how sequestration spending cuts would affect aviation services.
The agencies said the letter was “just the beginning” of a conversation with stakeholders about how to “reduce the negative impact” of required cuts that are expected to reach $600 million for this fiscal year.  The letter cited several measures that would be enacted if a deal on sequestration isn’t reached, including the closure of 60 airport control towers during midnight shifts, the complete shutdown of more than 100 towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations per year, and a nearly universal staff furlough.

We’ve scheduled a meeting with other aviation associations and top FAA officials to hear more about the agency’s sequestration plans. We will share more details with you as they become available.

AOPA’s government specialists expect that, if sequestration takes hold, we will see a gradual reduction of services that may take weeks to become apparent. During that time we can expect mounting pressure on Congress and the White House to find a workable compromise.

We have spent the past few years building the largest and strongest General Aviation Caucus the House and Senate have ever seen. The members of this caucus have been very supportive of general aviation and are working with AOPA to find the best possible scenario for managing anticipated cuts. In our meetings on Capitol Hill, we have made it clear that the safety of our nearly 400,000 members depends on maintaining vital services, including air traffic control, weather and NOTAM information, updated charts, and other critical planning and operational tools. Airmen certification and medical services are also a concern, and we are working with our colleagues within the FAA to make sure the agency knows which services are most important to our members.

Standing in the shadow of the sequestration controversy is the president’s budget, which will also come out in March.  We expect it to once again include a $100-per-flight user fee. We anticipate that the House of Representatives will declare the president’s budget dead on arrival, and then enact its own budget bills (without user fees).  Those bills will go to the Senate, where a budget has not been acted upon for years.
Thus, we are still months away from knowing whether the administration will be able to advance its user fee proposal.

If past is prologue, chances of its passage are not good, but we can’t afford to be complacent. We will work to defeat proposed user fees, as we have successfully done in the past.

In the meantime, we hope that a solution to the automatic sequester can be found by March 1. Until then, please stay tuned to AOPA’s website and newsletters for updates on our meetings with the FAA and Congress, and for further news on sequestration’s impact on aviation.


  • Troy Shearer

    Lets see if I have this right. AOPA has been fighting the good fight against user fees. Saying our taxes on fuel and airline tickets are more than enough. I think we all agree on that. The FAA is now asked to find ways to reduce its budget approx 8% and suddenly I keep seeing articles from AOPA about how all these control towers are going to close how our safety will be compromised etc. Can we get our story straight? Does the FAA have enough of our money or not? I think we all know the FAA has plenty of places it can cut its budget without compromising safety or nextgen. I see the Gov is crying Wolf and trying to scare us.. May I suggest that we (AOPA) assist the FAA in finding places it can cut expenses? How much money does the FAA spend chacing NOTAMS for tower lights for example? How much do they spend telling us which child car seats can not be used in aircraft that are perfectly legal for highway use? The FAA has never built an aircraft yet they spend a lot of money telling cessna how to do it, telling garmin what is ok for rv-7 isn’t good enough for a 172. Lets encourage the FAA to rewrite its entire budget, Throw out plenty of useless regulations and watch how a so called budget shortage becomes a surplus.

  • Boyd Birchler

    I say there is great opportunity to be had by the present FAA budget situation! They need to cut spending:we have programs we don’t like and those programs cost the FAA money.
    Point in fact would be the 3rd class medical. I believe “Now is the time” to seek for it’s total elimination no strings or restrictions attached. The third class medical should go the same way as the middle markers did for nearly all ILS approaches. No one misses them and no safety advantage was derived from keeping them operable. We all know that having a medical examiner look at you once every 24 months does not predict that you will not suffer medical incapacitation while flying as PIC. Elimination would not alter safety, the pilot is acutely aware that every time he climbs into the left seat he is self certifying he is physically is in “condition for safe operation of the aircraft”. Self certifying is a way of life with or without the 3rd class.

  • Rationalist

    Welcome to Obama’s vision for America.

  • frank mitchell

    The FAA should expadite the AOPA/EAA class three medical self certifcation rules this would reduce cost of unnesessary paper work and man power. Monies saved couled be then directed to where it is needed to maintain safe air ways.
    The rule change would be an economic boost to the GA economy freeing up hundreds if not several thousand aircraft now sitting idle at airports across the country. Increased flight hours by pilots like myself who have let their medical laps, Sport Pilots wanting to up grade to more comfortable aircraft and new students who are big to fit in the newer sport a/c.
    The increased flight hours means increased fuel use and there for incresed tax revenue for the FAA.
    We in the AOPA/EAA need to send a strong message to the President and Congress to get the FAA to move on our request.

  • Norm

    I am glad about the budge cuts….. our government waste so much money each year it is insane, and being a tax payer – this has to stop. I am not allowed to spend on my credit card into Obilivion, the bank would cut me off…. this is what Obama has been doing and it must stop. Reasonable cuts can be made without compromising much of our flying activities.

    For example, the waste spend in 2012 by this Administration at tax payers expense:

    * The Martian food tasting test: $947,000.00
    * Robot Squirls : $325,000.00
    * Caviar (fish): $ 300,000.00
    * The Dept. of Home Land Security (DHS) – hypothetial end of the world “Zombie” attack practice for Law Enforcement and military: $ 1,500,000.00

    * Dept of Arigculture waste: $4,500,000,000.00
    * Stip pole dancer making $85K allowed to collect food stamps
    * 2,000 dead people collecting food stamps (fraud), estimated $ 1,400,000.00 in wast/loss
    * Government program for Morocan Pottery Classes: $27,000,000.00
    * Treasury Dept waste each year: $ 70,000,000.00
    * Past Govnt survey on how many Volka drinks it takes a prostitue in Russia to get drunk: $ 1,500,000.00
    * Obama’s free cell phones and free service to low income: $ 1,700,000,000.00
    * Obama’s grant for “Prom Week”…. video games for High School Kids: $ 516,000.00
    * How about the Black Liquoir Loophole (taxes): $ 268 Million
    * How about the $ 675,000,000.00 in govent money in Beverly Hills, CA to help the poor ??? I guess if you are making less than $1,000,000.00 per year you are poor in Bev. Hills, CA. and entitled to money…… or some stupid program.

    * $15,000,000.00 paid to Russia by the USA per Congress, to help Russia pay their former Engineers and Physicists for their Weapons Program (i.e nuclear scientist and others…) Yes, we (Congress) paid Russia scientist just to make sure they did not go rogue…. so they are retired living as Millionaires on the USA tax payers backs while we work to support them.

    * The MARS Rover video game paid by Congress for our kids to play, cost: $ 94,000.00
    * How about another $230,000.00 by Dept of Arigculture for “Smokey the Bear” baloons for festivals – to give to kids.
    * $30,000.00 for speed reading faces relating to sexual excitement
    * $1,000,000,000.00 overspent on products by the govnt. per GAO on commonly used items (i.e. paper, toilet paper, misc..)
    * $505,000.00 for pet shampoo and toothpaste spent by HUD (Housing and Urban Development).
    * $1,300,000.00 by USDA for Yogurt plant
    * $1,000,000.00 by US Commerce to PepsiCo to help make Pepsi Soda – even though the company has Tens of Billions in Assets.
    * $350,000.00 + another $ 1.5 Million for a study on Perception of Golf Hole sizes – how the mind percieves sizes.
    * $520,000,00 in tax payers money to restore a bridge that has No connecting roads or trails – yep, a Bridge not used by anyone. Gee, I wonder what politicans is using “Ear Mark” money for that one to his friend.

    * $3,000,000,000.00 of benefits paid 2x (TWICE) to Veterans receiving care…. yes, we the tax payers, paid the same medical bills for our Vet (which they deserve care…) , but having been paying the bills two times during the year instead of just once…. and it continues to this day.

    * $40,000.00 for another video game……

    * $10,000.00 for “Talking” Urinal Cakes… used in Mens restrooms. When you urinate in the Urinal…. the Urinal Cake runs on a battery and warns about driving drunk and calling a friend. Yes, you pee and it talks like those Valentine Cars that play music but this is for a Urinal.

    * Center for Cartoon Studies (Cartoon and Comics) govnt. grant: $ 255,000.00 to help cartoonist be creative for those Sunday Paper Comic Strips.

    * $ 400,000,000.00 by the State Dept to help teach Iraq Police how to be cops….. like it would really help.
    * $ 698,000.00 on a musical for climate change.
    * $ 35,600,000.00 to restore an old streecar

    There is so much more…… this only scrapes the surface. Wtih all this wasted money, you are telling me they do not have enough funds to keep the FAA and Towers going?

    I think the AOPA needs to address Congress and the politicans on their waste, and how their waste is effecting Aviation or a threat to Aviation. Have them stop paying strip pole dancers food stamps each year – the ones making $ 85K to $150K per year and that will eliiminate the $ 100 / flight user fee.

    There is no reason to shut down any FAA operations if the government spent wisely, and stop wasting money as shown above.

  • Steven Asher

    I spent an hour today scraping off the winter barnacles doing some pattern work at Norwood Airport (KOWD). I was not alone. Thanks to the professionalism, skill, and courtesy of the experienced controllers, an immense variety of traffic, including single engine prop planes, business jets, and helicopters was accommodated smoothly, efficiently, and above all safely.

    Had that tower been closed, I am sure that there would have been multiple unsafe near-misses and fear that one or more of them could have ended in tragedy. The lives of GA pilots are not a “bargaining chip” to be used in the battle to balance the budget by raising taxes or cutting Social Security.

    I expect that AOPA as our voice in Washington will make it clear that no Senator or Representative can be considered a “friend of GA” unless they immediately endorse a supplemental no poison pill no offset appropriation to keep those towers open and GA pilots alive. I further expect that you will inform your members who on Capitol Hill places GA safety above politics and who does not.

  • Clayton Roney

    This is the first time in 20 years as a member of AOPA that I don’t agree with the sitting president of AOPA. I know the sequestration will hurt, but we have to do something. We can’t fight for no user fees and then fight because the government can’t afford what we want. I have been a pilot for 23 years and during the last several years, Towers have been added to three of our local airports. When they opened the towers, we complained that we didn’t need more government control. Now that the government wants to close them, we complain because we think it will effect safety. I for one flew out of those airports for several years and I had no accidents or close calls. I would rather have them back as uncontrolled airports. The expense and the complications of having a control tower I think is one of the problems with the shrinking of general aviation. Its no longer fun, We no longer sit around the hanger and hanger fly. We now have government “CONTROL” towers in places that we don’t need them.
    I think turning these airports back into uncontrolled airports might help bring the grass roots fun back to aviation.

  • Dennis E. Nelson

    I just tried using your new flight planner. Extreamly Frustrating and difficult to use or try to use. I tried putting in pilot abd a/c data three times and the system droped fields repeatly.

  • dwb

    Clayton you may have a point, maybe if we go back to fun grassroots flying the activity might increase. Less unnecessary oversite may get more pilots back to the airport bringing new prospects with them. Few airports are towered so obviously we know how to operate without towers. I’ve surveyed a few pro pilots and get a shrug of the shoulders and a- eh we’ll manage. Now we just need fuel costs to come down and it’ll be booming in no time! Maybe if the Feds could lighten up on some FAR as well(61.113)

  • Steve T

    I could not disagree with you more. You are against spending cutbacks and against increased funding at the same time?