NTSB workers

Prolonged Shutdown Affecting Training, Flight Permits

As the partial U.S. government shutdown reaches the end of its second week, the ripple effect on the aviation industry is beginning to surface in areas such as ferry flights. Some federal agencies shut down on December 22, including the Departments of Transportation, Homeland Security, and Commerce. Nearly 18,000 Federal Aviation Administration workers involved in a range of activities from airmen certificate issuance to NextGen development are on furlough, with others now facing the prospect of working without compensation until the government reopens.

Since the shutdown began as the holiday season set in, the full ramifications were not immediately felt in many corners of the industry. Key “life and safety” activities such as air traffic control are continuing, and the aircraft registry has remained open.

But others have already encountered issues. The National Air Transportation Association has heard member concerns about the effects on aircraft movement with the shuttering of flight service district office activities.

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In these cases, operators have encountered issues obtaining ferry permits and/or special flight permits, the association said, adding this has affected both domestic and international-bound flights.

NATA said it is trying to clarify whether designated airworthiness representatives (DAR) could facilitate permissions for certain things, such as ferrying permits, without FAA approval. But the furlough has affected the agency’s DAR oversight, making it unclear whether they can take these steps. “Things with DARs are very convoluted and confusing,” the association noted, saying it is working with the FAA to try to address the issue.

The National Business Aviation Association, meanwhile, is hearing similar concerns, as well as concerns about the halting of FAA knowledge testing and check rides. This is creating scheduling issues and delays for certain organizations, the association said. Another complaint that has surfaced involves the ability to obtain decals from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. But CBP is accepting receipts that show a decal has been ordered.

As for the manufacturers, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association was reaching out to members to assess the ramifications. One area of relief is the ability to register aircraft, something that had ceased in past shutdowns and caused delays in millions of aircraft transactions. However, a Gulfstream Aerospace spokeswoman noted, “The FAA is an important partner in what we do, so we’re watching the situation closely.”

Gulfstream is in the final throes of certifying its G600 and had anticipated type approval by the end of 2018. It is unclear what activity is ongoing in that area since the FAA said it would continue “limited” certification activity.

While air traffic controllers have remained on the job, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association called the shutdown unacceptable and warned that it is hampering training at a point where there are fewer fully trained controllers on the job than at any point in the last 30 years. The FAA training academy in Oklahoma City is among the activities suspended.

“This staffing crisis is negatively affecting the National Airspace System, and the shutdown almost certainly will make a bad situation worse,” NATCA president Paul Rinaldi said. “Even before the shutdown, controllers have needed to work longer and harder to make up for the staffing shortfall.”