Cliff Owen/AP file photo

Sequestration could mean furloughs for more than 2,000 air traffic controllers

Safety inspectors and engineers also would be affected, union says.

The automatic budget cuts scheduled to kick in on Jan. 2, 2013, could lead to furloughs for more than 2,000 air traffic control employees, a union representing them said Wednesday. 

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association released a report noting that in the absence of a deficit reduction deal, the 2011 Budget Control Act would require an 8.2 percent reduction in the Federal Aviation Administration’s operations budget. This potentially could lead to layoffs, NATCA said, and it could translate to furloughs for as many as 2,200 controllers, according to a report.

The union based its estimates on a Center for American Progress report.

“FAA has also informally suggested that it could institute rolling furloughs that would lessen the consequences to the system, but regardless of how the cuts are implemented, controllers and other aviation professionals will be working fewer hours,” NATCA stated.

The cuts also could mean furloughs for safety inspectors, engineers and other aviation professionals, the report said. Small airports would be hurt the most, it stated.

The union noted that CAP also found sequestration could lead to reductions in future FAA investments, including money for flight towers and equipment, aviation safety research and the Next-Generation Air Transportation System.

“As the front-line safety professionals in the aviation community, it is our role to warn the rest of the country that these cuts will be detrimental to our National Airspace System and the economy,” Rinaldi said in a statement.

NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert said the economic impact would be massive. 

“If Congress allows sequestration to become a reality, the aviation community and the economy will take a major hit,” Gilbert said in a statement. “We cannot afford to let that happen.”

FAA did not respond to a request for comment.