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Airlines fly above air traffic doomsday predictions

By Jon Hilkevitch, Chicago Tribune

Criticism intensified Monday that the Obama administration is deliberately inconveniencing and potentially endangering the flying public by going ahead with threatened staffing reductions at airport air traffic towers and radar facilities, instead of using flexibility that is available to comply with mandatory federal budget cuts.

But amid the attacks lobbed from Capitol Hill, airline industry and pilots union executive suites and business groups, the Federal Aviation Administration’s 10 percent downsizing of on-duty air traffic controllers resulted in no significant impact on passengers in Chicago or most of the U.S. during the first weekday of furloughs under so-called sequestration, officials said.

…White House press secretary Jay Carney blamed Republicans for the cuts, calling the FAA furloughs “an unfortunate result” of botched budget negotiations in Congress. He said 70 percent of the FAA’s expenses are for personnel and that the agency could not accomplish the necessary cost reductions elsewhere.

Yet some members of Congress urged the FAA to stop the furloughs and find other savings in the agency’s budget.

“The administration’s insistence on deliberately inconveniencing air travelers instead of prioritizing their safety falls right in line with its history of putting politics before common sense,” U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said Monday. “I am baffled by the administration’s continued insistence on putting its top-line message — that we can’t cut a dime without severe consequences — before the safety and well-being of Americans.”

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