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FAA Shutdown Affecting South Bend Regional Airport

Planes are still flying, so it came as a shock to some passengers when they heard that the Federal Aviation Administration has been shutdown for over a week.  The partial shutdown will now continue as the Senate failed to pass legislation extending FAA funding before they take their August recess.


"I did not know about it, I'm very surprised and I travel almost every week," said Mark Chappell who was flying out of South Bend Regional Airport.


It’s a surprise to some travelers, but it’s also a huge source of frustration for airport officials.


"I have just lost all respect for the two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives.  They are not doing the job that the American people sent them to do," explained John Schalliol, Executive Director of South Bend Regional Airport.


Shalliol is frustrated not only that Congress has not extend the legislation.  But, also because they haven’t made new legislation regarding the FAA, they’ve just extended the old funding laws 20 times.


"It's a terrible way to operate, 20 extensions to any piece of legislation just means they aren't doing the job we're sending them there to do," he explained.


The partial shutdown has already cost the airport a lot of money.  This will likely continue until Congress returns in September.  One source of funding lost is revenue from ticket taxes which the FAA can no longer collect.  Though the taxes are gone, airlines are still charging the same ticket prices and pocketing the tax money.  The tax money is used to fund improvements for airports.


“That money amounts to about $300-million a week that is not going into this trust-fund,” Schalliol explained.  “Which then can’t be used, of course, for capital improvements at airports across the country.”


South Bend Regional is paying contractors working on the new terminal with money that should be reimbursed by the FAA.  But nobody's at the FAA to pay them.


"We can continue that way probably through the end of the project, but that'll drain our reserves right down to the very limit," he explained.


Money in the bank that could be earning interest and making money for the airport, something he says FAA reimbursements won't do.  Schalliol is hoping for reimbursement at some point, he just doesn't know when he'll get it.


"I had hoped that we wouldn't have to do that, I had hoped that my successor would be able to come in and have some money available to do some capital improvements, explained Shalliol.  “Now it doesn't look like that'll be the case."


The Senate had until the close of their session today to approve a House bill extending funding but negotiations broke down when both sides refused to back down over favored provisions.  The shutdown, which includes furloughs and lay-offs for thousands of FAA workers and airport construction workers, will likely continue until September.  Air traffic controllers are still on duty and flights are operating normally.

 

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