With all the talk of FAA inspector furloughs, it is important to remember that FAA airport inspectors were not among the federal government employees that were placed on leave on Oct. 1 when the U.S. government shutdown. I’ve had a number of people ask me why flight standards inspectors were furloughed and not airport inspectors. It’s certainly not because airport inspectors have more important safety functions – all safety inspectors have critical oversight functions when it comes to the safety of the aviation system.
The truth of the matter is that it’s all about money – specifically where the money for the different inspectors’ salaries comes from. While most other government employees’ salaries, including most FAA employees’ salaries, are paid from the general revenues of the United States, FAA airport inspectors are not. These employees are paid out of the FAA’s Airport and Airway Trust Fund – which is comprised exclusively of aviation user fees. These fees include airline passenger ticket taxes and fuel taxes paid by aviation operators.
So when Congress failed to pass a budget by the beginning of the Oct. 1 fiscal year precipitating the government shutdown and furlough of government employees, airport inspectors were among the lucky ones who continued to work and were guaranteed their pay out of the aviation trust fund.