"Effects of FAA Furloughs"
J. Randolph Babbitt, LaGuardia Airport, New York
August 1, 2011

LaGuardia Press Conference

Thank you for coming out today.

As a former commercial pilot, I’ve flown into La Guardia many times. And it pains me to see the effect this furlough is having on our efforts to modernize our air transportation system.

As the Secretary said, we need an FAA bill quickly so we can get construction workers here at La Guardia and across the country back to work.

These airport improvement projects are being held up or simply stopped. And they are critical to the modernization of our air traffic control system nationwide.

The old air traffic control tower here, from the 1960s, has to come down because it’s blocking views to some of the airport’s taxiways. Plus, it’s located on critical real estate in the airport terminal.

We opened a new tower here at La Guardia in January. It’s 233-feet high – about 82 feet higher than the old tower. And it’s equipped with the most modern air traffic control technology. After spending about $100 million here to design, build and equip the new tower, it makes sense that we need to remove the old one so that we can maximize clear lines of sight.

About 40 construction workers were going to start to dismantle the concrete base of the tower last week. But because of the failure to pass an FAA authorization extension, they were told not to come to work.

And around the country we’ve stopped work on major control tower construction in Las Vegas, Gulfport, Miss. and Palm Springs, Calif.

We have also been forced to furlough nearly 4,000 FAA employees around the country.  Over 120 of those employees are based in the state of New York and 650 of them work right next door in New Jersey.

Most of our employees in New Jersey were working on millions of dollars of research that will help move our air transportation system to the satellite-based navigation system of tomorrow.  ALL of that has stopped.

We have kept on our airport safety inspectors because we will not make any compromises when it comes to safety.  But everyone should know, because Congress has failed to act, these inspectors are doing their jobs without pay.  They are traveling around the country to airports at their own expense. 

This our busiest time of year for safety inspections and our inspectors are paying to do their job out of their own pocket.  They cannot get paid or get reimbursed until Congress passes an FAA bill.

Everyday that this goes on, we fail to make progress.  Congress cannot go home for their August vacation without fixing this problem. 

We need our airport improvement employees, engineers and planners back on the job so we can get this important work moving again.