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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Senate Schedules Hearing on FAA's Handling of Sequestration and 787 Investigation

By Woodrow Bellamy III

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation announced a hearing scheduled for April 16 to review FAA’s handling of the sequestration budget cuts, ongoing investigation of the Boeing 787 and the agency’s progress on implementing safety provisions in recent FAA reauthorizations.

The committee said the hearing will examine the “consequences of sequestration” on the agency, which recently announced its decision to close a total of 149 air traffic control towers throughout the U.S., mostly at small and medium-sized general aviation airports. FAA was forced to reduce its budget by $637 million by the end of the 2013 fiscal year as a result of the sequester.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and NTSB Deborah Hersman will join GAO Director of Civil Aviation Issues Dr. Gerald Dillingham and DOT Assistant Inspector General on the witness panel at the hearing.

Several lawmakers on the committee were critical of FAA’s handling of the sequester, including Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) who introduced an amendment to the Senate’s recently passed continuing resolution to give the agency flexibility in reducing its operating budget so that it could avoid closing the towers.

Some of the airports facing tower closures are seeking lawsuits against the agency, claiming that FAA is violating a federal statute meant to ensure major changes at airports do not impact safety.

The hearing will also give lawmakers their first chance to question Huerta and Hersman about the ongoing investigation of the Boeing 787. Boeing recently conducted a test flight with the 787 featuring its redesigned lithium ion battery system, and is hoping to return the planes to commercial service soon. More

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