While the U.S. Congress passed legislation on October 16 that put an end to the 16-day government shutdown, getting agencies such as the FAA fully back up to speed will likely take weeks–adding to the adverse impact widely felt within the general aviation community and beyond.
“While the agreement reached does reopen the government, it may be some time before services at the FAA and other agencies are fully restored to pre-shutdown effectiveness,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen.
Still, NBAA and other aviation alphabet groups were relieved the episode finally came to an end and that FAA services halted during the shutdown, especially those for aircraft registration and title search, have resumed. While air traffic control functions were deemed essential and thus not affected during the shutdown, manufacturing and modernization efforts were stopped, as were aeromedical case reviews and import/export of aircraft. Overall, about 15,500 of the FAA’s 46,000 employees were furloughed during the shutdown.
Notably, the closure of the FAA aircraft registry in Oklahoma City paralyzed both new and pre-owned aircraft sales transactions. According to GAMA, some 150 new aircraft sales transactions worth $1.9 billion were stalled by the office’s closure. In addition, the National Aircraft Resale Association was unable to estimate how many pre-owned aircraft sales transactions were affected.
The aviation associations pushed to get the FAA to recognize aircraft registrations as an essential service, sending joint letters to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. On October 10, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association assembled a small but boisterous rally on the east lawn of the U.S. Capitol, in an attempt to get their message across to members of Congress.
At the rally, colleagues from NBAA, ALPA, GAMA, NATA, AAAE and the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists called on Congress to end the furlough of thousands of safety inspectors, because operating with a skeleton staff was “eliminating critical layers of redundancy and safety.” NBAA’s Bolen explained that business aviation is subject to more federal regulation than other industries and thus suffered disproportionate harm from the shutdown.
A week later–on October 17–all FAA and other federal employees were back at work, though the shutdown’s effects will linger for some time. In an October 18 internal FAA, Aircraft Registration Branch manager Walter Binkley told employees that the “Registry will take a few weeks to fully recover from the effects of the furlough. During this recovery period, our ability to process documents, including priorities such as imports and exports, will be extremely limited.”
NATA also pledged to help the FAA get the aircraft registry back up to speed. “NATA will continue to work with our members, industry colleagues and the FAA to help the agency prioritize its aircraft registry backlog so we can reduce the impact on aviation businesses as much and as soon as possible,” said NATA president and CEO Thomas Hendricks. “By working together we can and will get the general aviation industry moving again.”