National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Paul Rinaldi spoke today to members of the Aero Club of Washington about the devastating and potentially irreversible negative impacts sequestration will have on the nation’s aviation system and economy if Congress does not act to avert it.
Said Rinaldi: “As many of you know, our National Airspace System is built on redundancy. When funds and personnel are cut, layers of redundancy are eliminated, and layers of safety are slowly reduced…Let me be clear – making our national airspace the world’s safest and most efficient is the top priority for air traffic controllers and we will do everything in our power to maintain it moving forward. But the inescapable fact is this – continued budget uncertainty is not good for the long-term safety of the system.”
Rinaldi explained that the drastic cutbacks forced by sequestration will negatively impact every citizen in the country. Furloughs for air traffic controllers will result in fewer flights and increased delays, hurting all system users. Additionally, FAA and contract tower closures will greatly affect general aviation, rural communities, private enterprises and the nation’s military. He also suggested that in addition to the sequester, permanent reductions in discretionary spending are creating the very real possibility of a downsized FAA and consequently, a downsized national airspace.
“I don’t need to tell you that the system we all use and enjoy today is the result of years of planning and research,” Rinaldi said. “The current budgetary environment is putting the future safety and efficiency of the system at risk. As controllers we consider safety essential, and we believe the general public and all users of the airspace do too. So while we understand the need to reduce our nation’s debt, we feel strongly that compromising the safety and efficiency of the nation’s airspace is not the way to do it. No matter how you slice it, the current approach is potentially creating more problems than it is solving.”
In his remarks, Rinaldi described the preparations to implement the sequester as “frustrating.” He said, “No one believes it’s the most effective way to reduce federal spending. No one believes it will solve our nation’s fiscal problems. And yet, because our nation’s policy makers did not and cannot come up with a better approach, trained professionals will be forced to put aside their good work to implement an extremely short sighted policy.”