The current furloughs of air traffic controllers may be due to unique and unusual circumstances but after a single day of delays throughout the aviation system, it’s clear they should be halted immediately. On Sunday, the first day of the furloughs, lengthy delays at major airports in New York and Los Angeles inconvenienced passengers and contributed to further delays across the country despite mostly good weather and flying conditions. The delays could have been worse had the controllers not stayed after their shifts at key facilities like LAX Tower and Atlanta Terminal Radar Approach Control. Controllers did their jobs yesterday by keeping things moving safely, and as best they could manage during these unusual circumstances, efficiently.
Even with the hard work and dedication of controllers forced to cover for their furloughed colleagues, delays are expected to worsen throughout the week. Rather than allowing the world’s safest and most efficient national airspace system to slowly degrade, steps should be taken to cancel or postpone the furloughs until a solution that keeps controllers on the job full time can be found.