The effects of automatic budget cuts hit more than 220 Federal Aviation Administration employees in the Las Vegas Valley on Tuesday. They are among 47,000 nationwide who have 15 days to respond to furlough notices and tell their supervisors which days they will take unpaid leave from April through September.
Managers were told Monday that furlough notices would be sent to the FAA workforce via email or certified mail starting Tuesday, triggering a 15-day clock to respond and let supervisors know the 11 days — one per pay period — they will take off without pay April 7 through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.
The furloughs are required to reduce FAA spending by $600 million under the sequester law, which kicked in Friday and splits this year’s $85 billion deficit-reduction goal equally among defense and non-defense programs.
McCarran International Airport, ranked the seventh-busiest airport in North America in 2011, could experience some effects or delays from the furloughs but to what extent depends on what days and shifts the tower’s 44 controllers are assigned days off.
Last year, McCarran handled 41.7 million passengers arriving and departing.
In addition to the controllers, McCarran’s tower has 17 supervisors, managers and support staff affected by furloughs.
The FAA’s Las Vegas approach-control facility has 66 controllers plus 30 supervisors, managers and support staff.
Similarly, 17 FAA controllers work at the North Las Vegas Airport with four supervisors, managers and support staff.
Another 44 employees work at the FAA’s Las Vegas Flight Standards District Office.
Both McCarran and North Las Vegas airports are operated by the Clark County Department of Aviation with three federal partners: the FAA, the Transportation Security Administration, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said furloughs probably would affect efficiency of air traffic control but won’t compromise safety in the national airspace, the FAA’s priority.
In a Feb. 22 letter, LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the FAA “may reduce the efficiency of the national airspace in order to maintain the highest safety standards.”
“Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because we will have fewer controllers on staff,” their letter reads.
McCarran’s control tower is not on the FAA’s list of facilities where overnight shifts could be eliminated, but the Reno tower is on that list.
Contact reporter Keith Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0308.