The continued shutdown of the U.S. government may negatively affect Alaska general and commercial aviation should it continue further this month.
Alaska a state that is heavily dependent on aviation is already seeing the results of a lack of services by government departments.
Already members of the FAA Safety Team are not working, and some FAA employees have been furloughed.
A call the tower at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport was not initially answered and went to voice mail. Other departments are reported to be reduced unless considered “essential.”
Towers at Merrill Field and Anchorage are being staffed and open as these are considered “essential” positions.
While air traffic control continues at local airports students at flight schools can’t take a knowledge test, pilots can’t take a FAA certified practical test and if they do (with a non-FAA employee Designated Pilot Examiner) their license is not valid until it is entered into an online system currently not available.
Aircraft registration is no longer available meaning that any aircraft with an expired registration can’t legally be flown.
The registration issue is perhaps the biggest snafu of the shutdown as it is affecting commercial carriers trying to add aircraft to their certificates.
The Alaska Dispatch reports that Era Alaska and Warbelow’s Air Service we both be affected if the government agency doesn't go back to work soon.
According to the FAA, 10,000 aircraft registrations expire each month. The National Business Aviation Association reports its concerns over the shutdown.
“By shutting down the registry, the government is effectively grounding much of the America’s general aviation industry, along with the potential operations of thousands of aircraft crucial to the functioning of our economy. In the long term, the shutdown will have additional, grave consequences for workers, the economy and our national infrastructure,” said Ed Bolen, president and CEO of NBAA.
Alaska has approximately 10,000 aircraft statewide registered with the FAA.
National groups have appealed to the White House to avoid a continued closure and implore a resolution before general aviation is economically affected.
General Aviation sales and manufacturing dipped due to a downturn in the U.S. economy and has been slowly rebounding since 2012, today industry officials are warning of potential disastrous effects.
Bolen contacted President Obama hoping that a solution would be helpful.
“Recently, I sent an open letter to President Obama and Congressional Leaders, urging them to urge the Administration and Congress to expeditiously find a way forward to end the shutdown, or at a minimum conduct a re-evaluation of the criteria for excepted employees,” said Bolan before the Oct. 1 shutdown.
While essential services such as air traffic control and the National Weather Service are providing support for pilots, other aspects of safety oversight by the FAA may not be in place.
Other departments that also affect aviation in the state are the Federal Communication Commission, Office of Aircraft Services, and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Employees of the National Transportation Safety Board are furloughed unless there is a new crash.
One pilot whose aircraft had an inflight engine failure and landed successfully is waiting for the aircraft to be released by the NTSB.
“Everything came to a screeching halt, and those guys can’t move a finger,” said Will Johnson of Fairbanks. “The problem here is not with them it’s the government; it won’t let them do anything.”
Johnson wants to refit his airplane with a working engine in McGrath and ferry it back to Fairbanks for repairs.
The need to move the aircraft right now, is that it is on floats and the weather isn’t waiting for the government before it snows and freeze up comes, says Johnson.