LaHood: ‘People Are Going to Be Safe Flying’ Even If Sequester Cuts Happen

By Matt Cover | February 25, 2013 | 2:21pm EST

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

( – Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that even if $600 million in budget cuts at the Federal Aviation Administration happen as planned, the safety of air travelers will not be compromised.

“We will never compromise on safety. People are going to be safe flying,” Lahood said on Meet the Press Sunday.

LaHood told host David Gregory that the FAA would have to “work with” airlines to adjust flight schedules and slow down the pace of incoming aircraft so that federal air traffic controllers could do their jobs despite the furlough of some 47,000 employees.

LaHood made clear that there will be enough controllers to keep air traffic safe.

“Safety will not be compromised, but we will have to work with the airlines in slowing planes down, but there will be enough controllers to make sure planes are guided in and out of airports safely.”

The Transportation Department – which includes FAA – will see its 2013 budget cut by about two percent – $1 billion in total. The department’s 2012 funding was just over $72.5 billion in FY 2012. Its 2013 budget request was $74.5 billion.

LaHood had warned in a letter released Friday that air travelers should “expect delays” at major airports due to FAA furloughs. However, the furloughs are merely for one day each pay period – roughly one day every two weeks.

LaHood’s letter indicated that FAA will cancel overnight shifts at some air traffic control towers and close down towers completely at smaller airports.

Still, the secretary told Gregory that the agency would never compromise safety.

“One thing we never compromise on is safety. We will never take a backseat to safety,” he said.

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