FAA Authorization Runs Out on September 30 – and the Government May Shut Down. What Happens Then?

who will replace Billy Nolen Acting Administrator FAAwho will replace Billy Nolen Acting Administrator FAAIt’s a double-whammy for the FAA.  As Congress seems no closer to a deal that would avert a government shutdown in the U.S., an FAA Reauthorization package – the tax bill that funds the FAA – has also stalled for too long in the Senate.

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The 5 year FAA Reauthorization Bill of 2018 runs out on September 30.  Now, the Senate has linked a 3 month extension of FAA Reauthorization to a package that would avert a government shutdown: one that is unlikely to pass in the House.  The House is working on a separate package which might extend FAA Reauthorization. (And it goes without saying that confirming a permanent leader at the FAA  – the current nominee is former FAA deputy Mike Whitaker – isn’t happening right now.)

If all efforts to extend the funding of the FAA and/or avert a government shutdown fail before midnight tomorrow – and they may – what happens then?

Essential Employees Will Work Without Pay: Everyone Else Gets Furloughed

The primary responsibility of the FAA is to keep the air traffic in the United States running safely.  To that end, essential employees such as air traffic controllers will still have to show up for work – but they’ll be unpaid, a situation devastating for families and guaranteed to cause problems.   Air traffic control trainees will be sent home.  TSA agents are goverment employees and if the government shuts down, they will also be required to work without pay.  During the government shutdown of 2018-19, critical staff eventually  stopped showing up for work, causing major delays at airports.

Non-essential workers at the FAA will be furloughed.  If the FAA authorization runs out coincidentally with a government shutdown, more than 17,000 workers would be furloughed, the Washington Post reports.

For the drone industry, that could mean that the already stretched team that works with the industry to grant waivers, authorizations, and move complex operations forward will not be available.  Will advanced aviation be considered essential when the shutdown comes?

Taxes, Funding, Training, and More

In addition to the devastating effect that effectively closing critical federal functions will have on the entire aviation ecosystem, the lapse in FAA authorization will mean that the agency cannot collect taxes: the ticket tax, gas tax, international travel tax, etc – which are estimated at almost $140 million per day.  Airport improvements stop.  Training of new employees – a big push for the FAA, facing a shortage of air traffic controllers – also stops.  The rippling effects of an FAA lapse in authorization are huge: combined with a government shutdown, the effects could last long after the current spat in Congress is resolved.

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Miriam McNabbMiriam McNabb

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.


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