Despite FAA furloughs, flights run smoothly at airport

Herald Staff Writer

Delays have not been experienced so far at Huntingburg Airport following the effects of sequester cuts Monday. Delays are still a possibility, but new federal legislation may prevent future furloughs before they affect the local airport.

Following the sequester, the Federal Aviation Administration made changes to adjust to about $600 million in budget cuts by Sept. 30, the end of its 2013 fiscal year. A plan that started Monday required the vast majority of the FAA’s 47,200 employees to be furloughed for one day every two weeks. The furloughs have had a major effect on air traffic control, with flight delays varying from a few minutes to a few hours.

On Monday alone, furloughs caused more than 1,200 flight delays, according to the FAA. On Tuesday, 1,025 delays were related to staff shortages, and Wednesday saw more than 863 furlough-related delays.

Huntingburg Airport Manager Travis McQueen said that no problems have come up locally since the furloughs took effect.

“We’re fortunate and blessed that we’re not being impacted directly and immediately,” McQueen said.

Spokesmen from Kimball International and Jasper Engines & Transmissions said that they have not heard of flight delays at Huntingburg Airport or in commercial travel from their customers and employees.

“To our knowledge, we’ve not really had any problems or anyone who’s been adversely affected,” Kimball spokesman Marty Vaught said.

Huntingburg Airport does not have its own air traffic control tower. From 7 a.m. to midnight, a tower at Evansville Regional Airport directs Huntingburg traffic, and from midnight to 7 a.m., a tower at the Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center takes over.

An employee at the Evansville tower who was not authorized to speak on the record said that Evansville has been affected by the cuts just like everybody else in the FAA. Despite the furloughs, he said he hadn’t noticed too many delays in the Evansville area. Employees at the tower in Indianapolis declined to comment, referring questions to the regional public affairs office, which confirmed reports of furlough-related nationwide delays.

Federal legislation could alleviate some of the strain on the FAA. The Senate unanimously passed a bill on Thursday night that would allow the Department of Transportation to shift as much as $253 million into the FAA from other areas of the department. The funding would restore full staffing to control towers, among other effects.

The bipartisan bill, which does not call for additional revenue or spending cuts, was to be up for a vote in the House of Representatives today. House officials indicated it likely would be brought up for quick approval, according to The Associated Press.

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