FAA-mandated furloughs affecting local employees

POSTED: 06:43 PM MDT Mar 14, 2013 
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

Citing the federal government's forced budget cuts, the Federal Aviation Administration sent furlough notices to most of its 47,000 employees.

The FAA says most workers will be furloughed one day every two weeks, starting next month.

A group of 11 technical operations employees for the FAA spoke with Local News 8 & Eyewitness News. They said they're only speaking for themselves and not on behalf of the agency.

"You know, when you read it, you think...wow, I'm fixing to lose 10 percent of my pay," said Bill Munger, furloughed FAA employee.

When most people travel, they're preoccupied with having their boarding passes ready and luggage fees.

But if it weren't for Bill Munger and 10 other FAA technical operations employees, planes wouldn't even be able to take off.

"We maintain both the Pocatello and the Idaho Falls airport," said Munger. "All of the electronics that the controllers or the aircraft may use to navigate and communicate in the National Airspace System."

The team works a large area from Malad to Island Park... Driggs to Salmon. With all of the work they do, the team was surprised to receive this furlough letter via email.

"An email to me...blindsided me," said Steven Johnson, furloughed employee. "You know, read, understand, and will comply. I was dumbfounded, really."

But they say it's not just about losing 88 hours at work from April to September, it's about safety, especially if air traffic controllers lose their jobs.

"I think if we lose those people, it's not going to be as safe," said Johnson. "My job definitely won't be as safe. I think for the general public, travel won't be as safe."

The FAA's budget has to be reduced by more than $620 million between now and late September, which is the end of the federal government's fiscal year.

That loss in funding is where these furloughs stem from.

Wednesday, the Idaho Falls Regional Airport sent a justification letter to the FAA on why its control tower should remain open.

Airport Director, Craig Davis, says he will hopefully receive an answer in the next 24 hours.