Boise air traffic controllers get furlough notices from FAA

The Idaho StatesmanMarch 7, 2013 

— Gordon Stewart, the Boise Airport's air traffic manager, received his notice in an email Wednesday from the Federal Aviation Administration Washington, D.C., headquarters. The 33 air traffic control workers who report to him should receive their notices via certified mail within a few days, he said.

As the federal sequestration budget-cutting process takes effect, workers across the federal government figure to receive similar notices.

So far, sequestration has had no effect on traffic flow at the Boise Airport, spokeswoman Patti Miller said. That could change by next month.

Because federal law requires 30-day notices for furloughs of the government's employees, Boise's air traffic control workers, who are employed by the FAA, are not subject to taking forced, unpaid days off until early April, Stewart said. Starting April 7, each one is scheduled to begin taking a one-day furlough each two-week pay period.

"We’ll spread this out as much as we can so that the impact to the public is minimized," Stewart said.

He said the government anticipates a total of five to 11 furlough days for each employee.

"At this point, no one is exempt. It would apply to every employee without exception," he said.

Meanwhile, the Transit Security Administration has warned it plans to leave positions open when employees leave them, leading to increased wait times for air passengers. It's unclear if the Department of Homeland Security has sent transit security officers furlough notices.

"TSA will put in place a hiring freeze, which will result in up to an additional 1,000...vacancies by Memorial Day Weekend and up to 2,600 vacancies by the end of the fiscal year," according to a TSA statement. "With TSA staffing levels decreasing over time, we expect that during busy travel periods wait times exceeding 30-40 minutes could double at nearly all of the largest airports. In addition, passengers who schedule their travel outside of peak flight schedules and plan to arrive close to their scheduled flight time may see their wait times now reach 30 minutes or more."

Stewart said the FAA has tossed around the idea of closing air traffic control towers at smaller airports, a scenario that could lead to the closure of every tower in Idaho except the one in Boise.

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