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Fiscal cliff shadows over aviation

December 7, 2012, 04:13 pm

A bipartisan agreement still has not been made on the looming fiscal cliff set to kick in at the beginning of 2013, which will increase taxes and cut spending, a move that could have a significant impact on general aviation, aerospace manufacturers and airliners.

According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to lose nearly $1 billion from its budget of $15.8 billion, unless a governmental decision provides some relief on the automatic spending cuts. The AOPA believes an FAA loss to that extent will cause it to close more than 200 control towers and fire 1,200 controllers and 600 other staff members.

The effects would reach even further, as a loss of this magnitude would cause the FAA's implementation of its Next Generation National Airspace System would be delayed, because funds might be needed elsewhere.

A Washington-Post Pew Research Center poll showed that 49 percent of Americans believe a solution will be provided for the fiscal cliff by the year's end. A separate Quinnipiac report, however, showed  Americans trust the government will avoid a financial crisis, even if the solution is only short term.

"The 48 - 43 percent belief that President Obama and both parties in Congress can avoid the fiscal cliff is hardly a strong vote of confidence that the folks in Washington can avert the supposed financial catastrophe they all say they want to avoid," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Craig Fuller, president of the AOPA, is one person that believes a bipartisan agreement on what to do with the fiscal cliff will be made by the end of the year but more decisions will come in 2013.

“The two (scenarios) that are kind of being focused on is something now, a so-called down payment, if you will, and then more time to work out further details during the course of 2013,” Fuller said. “Or, some mechanism by which they kick the can down the road. That’s a harder one to see.”

With the budget cuts effect on the FAA, safety going into next year is a large question. AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Relations Melissa Rudinger expressed that concern in a CNN interview and said they are keeping in close touch the House and Senate General Aviation Cauceses, so they are aware of aviation's top priorities.

With so much uncertainty in the aviation community for 2013, pilots are encouraged to secure their own financial future with pilot life insurance.

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