FAA sequestration cuts not safe or sensible

Craig Fuller, president and chief executive officer of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), on Wednesday leveled sharp criticism at the sequestration cuts planned by the Obama administration and the FAA, suggesting that the decision to close control towers and scale back aviation services constitutes a risk to aviation safety.

“The White House budget office has forced troubling, and possibly dangerous, cuts on the FAA,” Fuller said. “It doesn’t have to be that way. Rational savings can be found, and we are ready to work with the FAA and the Department of Transportation to build workable solutions. But closing more than 200 air traffic control towers, derailing certification, and allowing our navigational aid system to deteriorate just doesn’t make sense. These are vital FAA commitments and abandoning them is unsafe, unwise, and unacceptable to AOPA members.”

AOPA President Craig Fuller

AOPA President Craig Fuller

During an appearance at the Helicopter Association International’s Heli-Expo 2013 in Las Vegas, Fuller urged the FAA to step back from its planned cuts and work with aviation industry groups on alternative spending reductions that would have little impact on air safety and general aviation operations.

“I fear that administration officials are driving a process that will have dire consequences for air safety and general aviation,” Fuller said. “General aviation is under assault from people who either don’t understand the dangerous consequences of their actions, or worse, simply do not care. We are calling on the Obama administration to grant FAA the necessary flexibility to find more rational savings.”

On March 1 the administration and Congress failed to halt legislation that imposes automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts of $85 billion. FAA officials told aviation industry representatives that its share of cuts would total $600 million – the largest portion of the cuts sustained by the Department of Transportation.

To reach those savings, FAA officials have decided to close nearly 200 control towers at airports around the country, reduce repairs to most of the nation’s navigational aids, and give most of the FAA’s 47,000 employees a one-day-per-pay-period furlough.

The FAA’s plan has caused confusion in a number of communities with airports that rely on control towers. The FAA has identified 77 essential operating areas. But general aviation aircraft often operate at smaller airports that are closer to destinations and business sites outside of major metropolitan areas. Those communities could experience a drastic reduction in aviation services, revenue, and jobs if the cuts go forward as planned in April.

Fuller told the audience at Heli-Expo that AOPA has already recommended a number of streamlining initiatives and spending cuts that the FAA could adopt without any impact on the strong record of general aviation air safety. These suggestions include adopting an AOPA-EAA proposal that would allow pilots to use their driver’s licenses in lieu of third-class FAA medicals.

Fuller suggested the FAA revisit its planned cuts and work with AOPA and other aviation groups to find better ways to achieve them.

“Voters did not ask for fewer towers!” Fuller said, referring to the November presidential election. “They did not ask for fewer controllers! They will not tolerate safety reductions! And neither will we.”


  1. Ivo Busko says

    I can’t believe what I read in these comments. As a pilot based at KMTN which has its tower on the chopping block, I wonder how in the world somebody can even think of operating the place based on self-announcements on CTAF. Have you ever faced pattern work when those A-10 ground attach planes are sharing the pattern with you? Well, I suppose most people in the aviation world tend to the right of the political spectrum, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I wonder what you guys suggest we do, since the majority seems to claim that AOPA doesn’t represent us. Again, I suppose that in the right wing mindset, it should be everyone on his own?

  2. ManyDecadeGA says

    If AOPA was serious about representing GA, they’d provide for, and even facilitate member comment and feedback on their electronic newsletter items, and for each AOPA Pilot Magazine article. The fact that they do not make it easy, and in cases they nearly make it impossible, indicates their insincerity. Even if you write to AOPA directly, they ignore the input, or “manage” or “spin” the feedback, if it is used at all. This is direct evidence they have NO INTENTION of actually representing the majority of GA AOPA membership. Regarding sequestration, first on the chopping block ought to be about 45 unnecessary FSSs. Next to go should be about 100 completely unnecessary towers, replaced simply by RCOs, for clearance delivery and interface with overlying airspace, for IFR release and approach flight plan cancellation. Immediately after that, obsolete WAAS should be abandoned, as now a $4B totally unnecessary system, considering that we now have SA turned off, 30+ GPS SVs, Galileo on the way, and RNP and Baro VNAV well established or able to be adopted by all users. RNAV using LPV criteria (which wastes critical busy and joint use metro area airspace, with obsolete straight-in angular trapezoid criteria) should be terminated, in favor of using the vastly superior and global standard RNP. Right after that action, the FAA’s ADS-B program should be suspended, until the inappropriate ADS -B implementation rules are revised, forcing a redesign of ADS-B criteria to take place to match Canada and Australia’s much better ADS-B implementation criteria. This is to positively eliminate the inordinately expensive and seriously flawed FAA overkill accuracy, integrity, and availability stanadards that now incorrectly imply the need for WAAS, just to do ADS-B. The list of FAA waste goes on and on. The list of unnecessary PORK that AOPA is still supporting at FAA goes on and on. Hence, sequestration may be the best thing that has happened to FAA. It also provides an opportunity to help AOPA change path in a more rational direction, for what they do and do not support in FAA, and in NextGen, that they perhaps have had in decades.

  3. Lawrence Babb says

    Yes this is the perfect time to get rid of the expense of the third class medical. This is just government over control and expensive to tax payers and to pilots If you have a problem you have to pay lots of money and time to prove you are OK to fly, when you can go out and drive 65 miles in hour down the road with cars right next to you. The data is in with the LSA pilots with no incapacitation’s. Put pressure on the secretary of transportation to get this done.

  4. Fritz Katz says

    Why would ANYONE believe ANYTHING that confirmed LIAR and relentless, self-serving gasbag Fuller says? Stop giving him media coverage as he cashes in his bonuses and goes to play golf in Cancun with his corporate bizjet buddies.
    He is the same disgrace to aviation credibility that insisted the Obama budget proposals would cost every J-3 cub weekend flier $100 a leg KNOWING the proposal affected only turbine.
    He is the same disgrace to aviation aspirations that ordered AOPA to tell FAA to DELAY consideration of the “no medical private” petition. Why? IMHO hoping it would generate more new members for AOPA and possibly fatten his retirement remuneration package WHILE DISSERVING CURRENT MEMBERS.
    He is the same IMHO amoral slug who got rich as the Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs at Philip Morris Companies presumptively working to give more Americans lung cancer and opposing government efforts to reduce consumption.
    He is the same disinformation specialist who worked for Reagan/Bush first to elevate the status of Iraq and then to destroy it for short term political gain.
    Who hires these guys like treasonous Boyer and self-serving liar Fuller at AOPA? Fuller also worked for headhunting firms so knew how to write a resume and when to drop names of heavy hitter backers.
    Time to put an ethics and humanity litmus test on future candidates for the top job there. Make sure they are light aircraft fans first, and then hire PR staffers they can control.

  5. Ray Klein says

    I agree with Pete. there are many untowered airports and the use of CTAF ant COMMON SENSE works just fine.

    • Barry says

      Many airports can operate without a tower. but many on the list cannot. KBJC for example has parallel runways, jets, fixed wing and helicopter training. I can’t emagine how it could safely operate without a tower.

  6. Mark says

    Wouldn’t this be a wonderful opportunity to get rid of the expense of the third class medical? That has to be expensive in OKC. Just say yes to the EAA/AOPA petition and
    use the sequester as political cover….sounds like a win/win to the GA community.

    • Gary says

      Many GA pilots have been waiting a long time for this medical exemption petition to be introduced. Now they are waiting for it to be passed! This would be the ideal time with the sequester upon us and the FAA looking to make cuts. Let’s make this happen!

  7. Lee Ensminger says

    The government is doing exactly what [and I’m embarrassed to say this, as a retired teacher] some school districts do when they have trouble passing a tax levy: They cut the things that will get the most attention. Usually this is athletics, music, arts and busing. The FAA’s way of getting attention is to announce they’ll close a large percentage of towers, the implication being that airplanes will start falling from the sky if they don’t get all the money they think they need. God forbid they would shave a position or two from each FSDO, or administrative positions in Washington! I agree that there are towers out there that just don’t have the traffic to justify their need for existence these days, but I think the cuts have been pretty heavy-handed and wholesale to get attention. It can’t possibly take that many towers to achieve their 2.4% decrease in ADDITIONAL spending.

  8. Pete says

    Please lay off the FUD and lies like “[t]hose communities could experience a drastic reduction in aviation services, revenue, and job”. We used to have 20 airplanes in the pattern without any control towers. Maybe it’s time to learn some basic airmanship again. Nowthing bad is happening to satellite airports that lose their useless towers, absolutely nothing. In fact we should have been closing them long time ago.

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