Senate Plan To End FAA Shutdown Falls Apart

Likely Congress will be unable to resolve the legislative standoff before September.

The agency has a budget of more than $16 billion this year and employs 47,000 people. Air traffic controllers have remained on the job. Administration officials have vowed that safety won't be compromised and travelers won't be inconvenienced.

But FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt revealed Monday that airport safety inspectors nationwide have been working without pay and shouldering travel expenses themselves since the shutdown began.

The 40 inspectors are in charge of regular checks covering runways, navigation aids and other systems at dozens of airports and airlines. A typical inspector may travel to five airports in a two-week period and rack up thousands of dollars in hotel and airline tickets, Babbitt said.

"We're asking for them to put the balance on their credit cards," he said. "It's not right to ask them to do that, it's just not."

Babbitt and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited New York's La Guardia airport, where work has stopped on a $6 million project to demolish an old control tower. The old tower blocks the view from a new control tower built a few hundred feet away.

Furloughed engineering technician Gerard Cook, who worked on the new tower, said the shutdown took employees off guard and many families were not prepared to go without paychecks. With a new month beginning, many will be struggling to pay their rent and other bills, he said.

"People think all government employees just sit behind a desk and push a pencil," said Cook, 40. "They don't realize we're out here in the manholes and the mud and the heat and the bugs, working hard."

Also Monday, Delta Air Lines said it will refund the ticket taxes charged for travel during the shutdown, although it's not yet clear when travelers will see the money.

The refunds will apply to people who bought their ticket before the shutdown began, but who traveled during the shutdown. People who bought their ticket after the shutdown began didn't pay the taxes anyway - although they paid higher fares instead.


Associated Press writer Chris Hawley in New York and AP Airlines writer Joshua Freed in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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