Members of the U.S. Senate have stepped up pressure on the Federal Aviation Administration to keep open its Aircraft Registry Office during the shutdown.
The action, led by U.S. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., along with Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., comes after a report on Monday (Oct. 7) that an estimated 250 workers at Dassault Falcon’s Little Rock operation could be temporarily laid off due to the continuing government shutdown.
Dassault Falcon, based in France, operates a “Completion Center” at the Little Rock National Airport (Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport) that retrofits corporate jets. On Oct. 2, a Dassault Falcon corporate jet (Falcon 2000S) retrofitted at the Little Rock operation was the 500th plane to be delivered.
But the company is unable to bring “green” aircraft to Little Rock from France because key Federal Aviation Administration personnel who issue the permits are furloughed because of the shutdown. For the same reason, the company is also unable to have retrofitted planes inspected before they depart the Little Rock center.
“It’s not the FAA’s fault,” Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said Monday when asked if his office was working with FAA on the issue. “It’s nobody’s fault except those policy makers who won’t get off their duff and stop this stuff. … It’s hurting real people. It’s hurting real jobs.”
Jeff Griffin, vice president-finance for Dassault in Little Rock, said plane arrivals prior to Oct. 21 have been permitted.
“We could be in trouble in about three weeks if this thing (shutdown) goes on,” Griffin said. “We’ve gone to the FAA, and they are basically telling us they are there just to take care of safety and if someone gets hurt.”
In the letter from the five senators to FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta, the senators call out the actions of the FAA during the shut down, saying it is placing “unnecessary hardship on aviation industries in our country.”
The senators specifically pointed to past shutdowns, saying the FAA registry office has remained open, citing a law that requires the office to remain open in spite of shutdowns.
“[T]he Anti-deficiency Act provides the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the FAA with the necessary authority to staff the Registry because it helps provide vital protection to human life and property. Maintaining this database is necessary for the U.S. to fulfill its ongoing international legal obligations under the Chicago Convention and the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment relating to the registration of aircraft. The Registry is also important to national security. Following the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001, triennial registration was mandated for all aircraft to help the government identify and mitigate potential terrorist threats. As long as the Registry remains closed, this important anti-terrorism tool will be unavailable to law enforcement officers.”
Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said the Governor did not have much to say about the request from the five senators.
“We appreciate the efforts, but the Governor’s preference is to get this shutdown done,” he said.
According to a report from Aviation Today, the FAA has furloughed more than 15,000 employees. The FAA also furloughed about 100 of 1,200 certification inspectors. However, those not furloughed are not allowed to work on new projects, permits or inspections.
The Aviation Today article also noted that the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) identified 12 deliveries scheduled for the first two days of October that have been delayed due to the furloughing of workers at the FAA Aircraft Registry office in Oklahoma City. GAMA has identified 123 aircraft deliveries by its member companies that are scheduled for delivery during the first half of October at an estimated value of $1.38 billion.