March 9, 2017

NBAA today joined eight other industry groups in asking Congress to fully fund the Contract Tower Program, which supports safety at communities across the country, as part of the FAA FY 2018 appropriations bill.

In a March 9 letter to lawmakers, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen voiced the association’s support that language in the current version of the bill that calls for “not less than $159,000,000” in funding for the program be included in a final bill.

“The FAA Contract Tower Program has provided cost-effective and essential air traffic safety services for over three decades,” the letter said. “More importantly, the safety and efficiency record of the FAA Contract Tower Program has been validated numerous times by the DOT [Department of Transportation] Inspector General, as well as by FAA safety audits.”

The program supports air traffic control (ATC) towers at 253 smaller airports in 46 states. While the towers handle 28 percent of all air traffic control operations in the U.S., they account for only 14 percent of FAA’s overall air traffic control tower operations budget. Contract towers are staffed by FAA-certified air traffic controllers who meet the identical training and operating standards as FAA-employed controllers. Most federal contract controllers are former FAA controllers or veterans with prior military air traffic control experience.

FAA controls and oversees all aspects of the Contract Tower Program, including operating procedures, staffing plans, certification and medical tests of contract controllers, security and facility evaluations. Contract towers operate seamlessly with FAA-staffed facilities throughout the country, and play a critical role in expanding tower services to the communities they serve.

“The bottom line is that, absent this highly successful partnership, many local communities and smaller airports would not receive the significant safety benefits of ATC services, as part of a unified national air traffic control system,” the letter said.

The letter was sent to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11-NJ), Ranking Member Rep. Nita Lowey (D-17-NY), as well as to the committee’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-FL) and that subcommittee’s Ranking Member Rep. David Price (D-4-NC).

Also receiving the letter were Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Ranking Member Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), as well as the committee’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ranking Member Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI).

In addition to Bolen, the letter was signed by J. Spencer Dickerson, executive director of the U.S. Contract Tower Association; Stephen A. Alterman, president of the Cargo Airline Association; Mark Baker, president and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; Faye Malarkey Black, president of the Regional Airline Association; Kevin M. Burke, president and CEO of Airports Council International; Peter F. Dumont, president of the Air Traffic Control Association; Martin Hiller, president and CEO of the National Air Transportation Association; and Mark Kimberling, president of the National Association of State Aviation Officials.

View the full letter sent to the House of Representatives.