A helicopter crew from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Jacksonville trains off the coast of Jacksonville, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009.
The U.S. federal government shutdown, now in its third week, means FAA certification and license delays for helicopter stakeholders, according to Helicopter Association International (HAI).
In addition, Coast Guard flight crews risk losing pay, as the service is funded through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), not the fully funded Defense Department, and Congress has yet to agree to a DHS funding bill.
Some HAI members "are trying to certify their aircraft, and others are working to maintain or achieve licenses," Matt Zuccaro, HAI's chief executive, said in a statement. "Because the majority of helicopter operations are conducted for the greater good of society, such as firefighting, air ambulance flights, and airborne law enforcement, these delays are creating adverse, unintended consequences."
Most HAI members are small-business owners, and the continued shutdown threatens "their economic viability and prevents them from supporting their families and their communities," he said.
HAI and 33 other aviation groups urged an end to the shutdown in a letter to Pres. Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a Jan. 10 letter. Such groups include the Aerospace Industries Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and the Commercial Drone Alliance.
"Most of the FAA staff who certify the safety of aircraft have been furloughed, and safety reporting and oversight systems have been suspended," according to the letter. "This is critical to resolving identified issues. The continued shutdown of these certification functions will also delay some companies in bringing their products to market and hurt deliveries and exports."
"We understand and appreciate that the FAA is committed to bringing all safety inspectors back to work, but it is not currently clear whether they will be able to perform key functions impacting operations," the letter said. "Additionally, all policy and rule-making for the fast-growing Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) market have been halted as has processing of waivers for commercial drone operations."