How Government Shutdown Will Impact GA, Flight Training

The FAA has a plan to ensure flying doesn’t grind to a halt. Here’s a list of what would be affected.

The FAA has a plan to ensure flying doesn’t grind to a halt during a government shutdown. [Credit: Julie Boatman]

"Will my flight training be affected if the federal government shuts down?"

This question is being asked a lot at local airports, because as part of the Department of Transportation, the FAA will most certainly be affected as employees will be furloughed. 

This isn't the first time this has happened, and lessons learned from previous federal government shutdowns have helped the FAA craft a plan to make sure aviation does not grind to a halt.

Designated pilot examiners (DPEs) will still be able to administer check rides, however, the principal operations inspector that the DPE works with to process the check ride requests and subsequent issuance of the certificates won't be getting paid.

On Thursday, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg held a press conference to outline the impact of the government shutdown, calling attention to the fact that members of the U.S. armed forces in addition to the thousands of civil servants that oversee America's transportation infrastructure will not be paid during the shutdown.

A shutdown could begin as early as Saturday, and it would have a detrimental impact on the national aviation infrastructure, particularly ATC, Buttigieg warned in saying that the shutdown would furlough 1,000 controllers currently in the training pipeline.

"Even a shutdown of a few days could mean we will not hit our staffing and hiring targets next year," he said.

What Continues During a Shutdown

According to DOT, the following activities will continue during a lapse in annual appropriation and authorization:

  • Air traffic control services
  • Maintenance and operation of navigational aids and other facilities
  • Flight standards field inspections
  • Airworthiness directives
  • Airmen medical certifications
  • Certain certification activities
  • Issuance of waivers for UAS and in support of other safety and security operations
  • Approval of exemptions for unmanned aerial systems operations
  • On-call accident investigations
  • Air traffic control specialist (ATCS) medical clearances
  • Air traffic safety oversight (limited)
  • Commercial space launch oversight and licensing
  • Command, control, communications, and intelligence (i.e., regions and HQ operations centers, intelligence threat watch, and emergency communication support)
  • Foreign relations on aviation safety-related matters
  • FAA's aircraft and airman registry
  • Congressional liaison services, to the extent that they are necessarily implied from the authorized continuation of legislative activity
  • Support functions necessary to provide timely payments to contractors and grantees

What Stops During a Shutdown

There are a number of activities that will cease during the shutdown. These include:

  • All Airport Improvement Program (AIP) activities during a lapse in authorization 
  • Passenger facility charge approvals
  • Airport planning and environmental services funded by Airport Improvement Program (AIP) contract authority
  • Development of new air traffic control specialists not certified to work a position
  • Aviation rulemaking
  • Random drug testing of the nonsafety workforce
  • Facility security inspections
  • Routine personnel security background investigations
  • Continuity of operations planning
  • Development, operational testing, and evaluation of next gen technologies
  • Development of next gen safety standards 
  • Air traffic performance analysis
  • Capital planning for FAA facilities and equipment
  • Research, engineering, and development programs
  • Investment planning and financial analysis
  • Dispute resolution
  • Audit and evaluation
  • Financial operations, controls, and reporting 
  • Most budgeting functions (except those necessary to provide necessary services to support excepted functions)
  • Law enforcement assistance support
  • Most administrative support functions not required for support of excepted positions
  • Delivery of routine public affairs services, website updates, and social media activities
Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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