February 28, 2013 - Barring a sudden display of bipartisanship in Washington, it is becoming apparent that implications of the federal budget sequestration will begin to occur on Friday. The aviation community, particularly those of us in general aviation, are bracing for whatever happens afterward.
EAA and other GA organizations received briefings from FAA, DOT, and Congress this week on where things stand. EAA has continued regular contacts with policymakers on all sides of this situation and emphasized that, above all, flight safety must remain the top priority when measuring sequestration's impact on aviation.
There are some things that the GA associations have learned in their continual discussions with those in government:
- General aviation is absorbing a disproportionate percentage of the impact on the FAA's budget and services. FAA and DOT made it clear that their mandate is to minimize the effect on the bulk of the air traveling public, that is, those who fly on airlines. GA will experience many, if sometimes gradual, cutbacks in services such as air traffic, weather information, certification, and other operations.
- We don't know the full, future impact of FAA's budget tightening. The full weight of the cuts will not come on March 1. There will be a gradual reduction of services in the coming weeks. DOT Secretary LaHood described some of the effects in a letter last week, but the impact would be more severe as time passes in both aviation and beyond, which may increase public pressure for a solution.
- The GA community is aligned in its response. EAA, AOPA, NBAA, GAMA, NATA, ICAS, HAI, and other groups continue to call for a solution to be forged by Congress and the administration. While aviation is our expertise and focus, the effects of the current budget situation will have dramatic overarching impacts in many areas of life beyond aviation.
The sequestration dilemma will hurt those who fly in varying degrees and in ways that may not be apparent for weeks to come. EAA's role is to keep members updated on the latest developments and use our contacts - on our own and in conjunction with others in the GA community - to emphasize to those in Washington the need to find solutions and, above all, maintain safety. That includes our working with the congressional GA caucuses, which have created a continual, open line of communication between the aviation community and Congress.
While sequestration is in the national spotlight right now, other political matters such as President Obama's next budget proposal that includes GA user fees and continued financing of federal government operations also loom in the next few weeks. EAA and other aviation groups will continue to work to ensure that GA does not find itself harmed disproportionately.