This Florida Airlines' New Planes Are Grounded Due to Shutdown
The government shutdown continues to affect American travelers, airports and workers in a multitude of ways. The Federal Aviation Administration has currently stopped its certification process for new aircraft, which is affecting one airline quite directly.
Silver Airways was on track to be the first US airline to fly the ATR 42-600, an aircraft manufactured in France, and it was scheduled to start operating the turboprop next month. The Florida-based carrier is a modest operation with a fleet of 21 Saab 340s, but has ordered 16 ATR 42-600s and four ATR 72-600s to replace its aging fleet of Saabs.
But with the government shutdown in full effect, parts of the FAA's operation have been paused — FAA employees who certify an aircraft's airworthiness have been furloughed until further notice. When a new aircraft begins flying in the US, the FAA puts it through a rigorous airworthiness certification process to make sure it's safe to fly.
"Certification activities are currently halted," an FAA spokesperson told TPG in a statement. "Employees who have a direct mission to ensure public safety, like air traffic controllers and the technicians who maintain the air traffic control system, remain on the job."
Silver Airways told TPG that while it's in the final phase of receiving regulatory approval from the FAA, the certification process has been put on pause for the two ATR 42-600s that it's already taken delivery of.
"While we understand that regulators are limited in what they can do during the government shutdown, we are exceedingly frustrated and disappointed that the shutdown is causing a delay in launching our new planes," a Silver Airways airline spokesperson told TPG.
The airline was supposed to launch a new nonstop route with the aircraft next month, operating between Fort Lauderdale and Pensacola.
“We got initial approval in December. We had days scheduled in January with the FAA, it never occurred,” Silver Airways CEO Steve Rossum told CBS Miami. “We are heading into high season. We need every seat we can get in key markets.”
The shutdown is now tied for the longest in history, and as it moves into its fourth week, the ATR will continue to sit idle in a Florida hanger until the FAA says it's good to go.