Whether that could affect safety at those airports is “the million dollar question,” Williams says.
But Fuller stresses “airports will remain open [and] many GA flights can and will proceed as normal, even if some towers are closed.”
AOPA is also concerned that the rolling furloughs – once every 10 working days for most FAA employees – will mean a cutback at en route facilities. “Controllers at towers and en route facilities help pilots avoid trouble every day – something most of us know from firsthand experience. And that’s where sequestration may really hit hard,” he says.
Beyond the small airports, the National Business Aviation Association is warning members to be prepared for longer waits at larger airports, as their towers may have fewer controllers on hand to handle traffic.
NBAA notes it has received questions from companies that must use airports with control towers for insurance purposes. The association advises that even if a tower remains open, operators should check whether its hours have been curtailed.
NBAA also warns that other services, such as government waivers for international travel, may take longer. “One likely impact will be reductions in staff available for processing waiver requests, various approvals from the FAA’s Flight Standards District Offices, Customs inspections and paperwork, and other government functions,” the association says.
FAA has also warned of anticipated delays in other services, such as certification.
FAA has not yet sent out furlough letters, nor finalized the list of towers. The agency last month released a list of potential towers that would close, and an FAA spokeswoman says the agency anticipates that most of those towers will be closed barring any change in sequestration. FAA hopes to have more details later this week.