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Austin B. Smith/MEDILL

Some programs at FAA would be suspended in a shutdown, but airline travel would continue as usual.

Planes will fly, even if government doesn't

by Austin B. Smith
April 07, 2011

Airline passengers don’t need to worry about added flight cancellations or security risks if the federal government shuts down this week.

All employees whose jobs involve air safety will continue work as usual, according to an official at the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Transportation Safety Administration will also operate normally, so expect the lines for their infamous pat-downs to be long, as always, but no longer than usual.

“Air travel should not be affected in any way,” said Hani S. Mahmassani, director of the Northwestern University Transportation Center, a research institute.

Some administrative tasks will be set aside in the event of a shut down.

Aircraft certification, the process by which airplanes are deemed flightworthy, will be suspended. A Seattle-based spokesman of Chicago-based Boeing, said they are waiting to see if the shutdown happens before determining the impact of this suspension.

Also, a program that the FAA has boasted about for years, dubbed NextGen, would be suspended, according to an official at FAA.

NextGen is a multifaceted overhaul of the airspace network aimed at increasing flight timeliness and dependability while ensuring safety. NextGen, a long-term project that is still in early stages, will be suspended during a government shutdown.

The official at FAA said budget and administrative activities would be suspended, but should have no impact on consumers.

The shutdown will only occur if Congress cannot reach agreement on the budget for fiscal 2011, which is already nearly half over. President Barack Obama met Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon with Congressional leaders without reaching consensus.