WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) -- Federal Aviation Administration head Michael Huerta told a U.S. Senate panel Tuesday sequester budget cuts may mean air travel delays but not less safety.
Huerta and other federal officials appeared before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to discuss aviation safety in the United States in light of the agency's plan to close 149 airport control towers in smaller communities and furlough air traffic controllers at larger airports.
"I want to emphasize that as we undergo the difficult process of implementing the deep cuts required by the sequester, we refuse to sacrifice safety even if this means less efficient operations," Huerta said.
"We will only allow the amounts of air traffic that we can handle safely to take off and land. This means that travelers will need to expect delays.
"Today, we are meeting with air carriers to go over specific operational impacts related to the furloughs facility by facility.
"Our overarching principle in making these difficult decisions is to maintain safety and to offer the best air traffic services to the largest number of people, both now and in the future."
Huerta said FAA management is working to shuffle funding around as best it can to minimize the number of days employees will be furloughed through the remainder of the fiscal year. The maximum number right now is 11, he said.