March 29, 2013
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced its schedule to end funding to 149 federal contract towers (FCTs) in three phases over the next six weeks, with the first set of closures to occur April 7.
According to a timeline released by the agency, 24 FCTs will lose federal funding on that date, followed by 46 additional facilities on April 21. The remaining towers on the list will be shuttered on May 5. Additional FAA towers and other facilities are scheduled to close Sept. 30 unless a funding agreement is reached.
While the FAA list is not technically a mandate for tower closures – it merely notes the dates when FAA funding to the operators of the contract facilities will cease – the towers will be forced to close unless the affected airports are able to arrange alternate funding sources.
The agency stressed it will work with airport managers to ensure uninterrupted access to automated weather information, pilot-operated runway lighting, and common traffic advisory frequencies (CTAF) at the affected facilities, as requested by NBAA.
The closures are due to the budget sequestration that went into effect on March 1, requiring across-the-board budget cuts at federal agencies in the absence of alternative solutions from Congress for reducing the nation’s deficit. The FCT program received the brunt of those cuts at the FAA.
NBAA has been actively involved in numerous efforts to halt the tower closures. Earlier this month, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and COO David Grizzle seeking other solutions to the funding crisis. FAA officials took into account some of NBAA’s concerns, as 40 towers originally slated for closure will now remain open.
The Association also supported an amendment sponsored by Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) that would have offset the FAA’s planned savings from the closures with unassigned agency funds. Senate leadership declined consideration of the measure.
As the tower closure plan moves forward, NBAA will remain engaged with FAA officials on ways to mitigate the impact from these tower closures on business aircraft operations.
NBAA has also prepared a resource to assist business pilots who are unfamiliar with operating into non-towered airports.