With the clock ticking to avoid a year-end fiscal cliff, aviation leaders are warning that sharp cuts in the federal budget could have a long-lasting ripple effect through the aviation community.
“The fact is that we are in uncharted territory” as the fiscal cliff nears, noted NBAA president Ed Bolen in a message to members. “No one really knows precisely what specific programs will be affected, or the extent of the impact.”
The FAA would face budget reductions, and the effect could be severe as certification of new aircraft, avionics and engines all would likely slow to a trickle, Bolen warned. Aviation system modernization could also be impacted, with progress on NextGen slowing or possibly stalling altogether.
As the White House and Congress try to work out a deal to avoid automatic funding reductions and tax increases due to take effect in the new year, aviation organizations are also warning that aviation user fees could end up on the bargaining table.
“Although our community has more than 200 allies in Congress who either belong to the House or Senate General Aviation Caucus, the pressure to raise revenue will be intense,” Bolen said. The White House has proposed a $100-per-flight fee on IFR flights by turbine-powered aircraft.
A study earlier this year by the Aerospace Industries Association estimated that budget cuts to FAA operations as a result of the fiscal cliff could cost up to 132,000 aviation jobs and sap $80 billion a year from the nation’s GDP.
Meanwhile, Natca, the controller's union, released a study showing that sequestration cuts brought about by the fiscal cliff could cripple ATC.