In response to questions submitted via Twitter on Friday, Brian Deese, deputy director of the National Economic Council and special assistant to the president, told readers that “emergency air traffic control” was in place watching the skies while the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was in a partial shutdown. Interesting, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood never made reference to the U.S. air traffic control system being under an emergency situation?
The FAA has made it very clear that contractors have been told to stop work on critical “airport modernization projects” around the country after Congress failed to pass legislation giving the agency the authority necessary to continue work. How does that cause an emergency for air traffic control?
On Thursday, LaHood told reporters, from the White House, that despite the funding problems, air travel remains safe and reliable for passengers, “explaining that those laid off were working in technology research.” [source: Washington Post], not air traffic control.
Lisa Lindo, a resident in the D.C. area, asked Deese on Twitter, “is it true FAA funding has been blocked? Are they still watching the skies?” Deese responded under the White House Twitter account, “emergency air traffic control in place, but because Congress hasn’t acted, 4,000 workers furloughed and construction jobs halted.”
Nearly 4,000 FAA personnel were furloughed on Saturday. Stopping work on these projects could significantly increase the ultimate costs of construction for taxpayers. Affected contractors, airport managers, and local officials across America are calling for action.
“Flying is safe. Air traffic control workers all over America went to work today. … Safety is not compromised,” LaHood said on Thursday. “And, frankly the flying public’s travel plans will not be compromised.”