The end of the 16-day government shutdown comes as a relief to the business aviation industry, but questions linger as to how long it will take to ramp back up and whether the industry will face the same situation in another three months.
National Business Aviation Association President Ed Bolen says the agreement ending the shutdown is welcome because “it brings a resolution to an untenable situation,” adding the consequences have been devastating.
The General Aviation Manufacturers Association estimates that nearly $2 billion in new aircraft deliveries were delayed by the shutdown, along with certain used aircraft deliveries, certification projects, and a range of certificates renewals. At least one manufacturer — Nextant Aerospace — had hoped to bring news of a winglet certification to next week’s NBAA convention, but that now has been pushed off to at least the end of the year.
“The work now begins to get the Registry office and other critical FAA functions back up to full speed immediately,” says GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce. “It is essential for the general aviation manufacturing industry — and its employees — that the FAA reduce the backlog of new and used aircraft slated for delivery as soon as possible so we can get them to our customers.”
Bolen warns it could take some time before services by FAA and other agencies are “fully restored to pre-shutdown effectiveness.” GAMA officials have noted that from a certification standpoint, a few weeks of inactivity can have ramifications that last far longer because some testing requirements are scheduled as much as a year in advance.
“The government shutdown had and will continue to have negative impacts,” adds National Air Transportation Association President and CEO Tom Hendricks “We need a healthy aviation industry in this country in order to unleash job creation and economic prosperity for local communities.”
Industry groups have reached out to FAA leaders, urging them to “act quickly” to mitigate the damage to the industry. “The FAA should consider a blanket exemption for all certifications, authority and qualifications that have or will expire shortly as a result of the shutdown,” Bunce says, as an example.
While the agreement — which funds the government through Jan. 15 and permits borrowing to continue through Feb. 7 — is welcome, industry leaders are concerned that it’s merely a stop-gap measure. “We may be looking at the same circumstances that led to this shutdown in the not-too-distant future,” Bolen says.
Bolen notes that the industry plans to continue working with government leaders in an attempt to ward off another closure of the registry should federal budget talks stall again in January.
The decision to shut down the U.S. Aircraft Registry was unprecedented, according to industry leaders, who point out that it remained open through previous shutdowns. The government has shut down 17 times since the late 1970s.
Industry leaders and general aviation advocates in both the Senate and House had sent numerous letters over the past couple of weeks to FAA, the Transportation Department and President Obama urging them to reconsider the decision to close the registry. Government officials said the shutdown must affect all but activities involved in life saving/life threatening situations or the protection of property.