FAA sued over air traffic controller furloughs; MSP doesn't expect delays


Fearing long delays in travel nationwide, two airline trade associations and the Air Line Pilots Association said they filed a filed a lawsuit Friday against the Federal Aviation Administration over its decision to furlough air traffic controllers, The Associated Press reports.

The furloughs -- a result of the federal sequestration cuts -- are scheduled to begin this Sunday.The FAA earlier this month notified air traffic controllers, safety inspectors and others that they could be furloughed for up to one day every two weeks.

According to The AP, some airports have predicted significant delays as a result of the furloughs.

Officials at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport told Minnesota Public Radio Friday that they don't expect major delays.

MSP spokesman Patrick Hogan said after talking to the local FAA officials, the airport was "pretty confident" the furl have "major impacts" -- "at least not to the extent that it will at some other airports across the country."

The FAA's air traffic controller furloughs are part of the $600 million in cuts the agency was ordered to make as part of the sequestration. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said earlier this week that air traffic controller furloughs will save the FAA $200 million, The AP reports.

The sequester -- which resulted in $85 billion in federal government’s automatic spending cuts -- went into effect in March.

The U.S. Court of Appeals likely won't schedule a hearing regarding the FAA lawsuit until sometime next week, days after furloughs begin, the head of carrier representative Airlines of America told The AP.

Once the furlough begins, nearly 7,000 flights daily could be delayed daily nationwide, the trade group warned, MPR reports.

Although the furloughs appear to be starting Sunday as planned, the scheduled closure of 149 traffic control were granted a temporary reprieve earlier this month.

Two of the air control towers are in Minnesota. The St. Cloud Regional Airport’s air traffic control tower was set to close Sunday, and Anoka County Airport’s tower was scheduled to close May 5.

Both towers will now close on June 15.

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