Fully funding the FAA’s Contract Tower Program is a key aviation safety priority and should be adopted as part of the Department of Transportation’s fiscal year 2020 federal-spending bill, NBAA and other aviation groups said in a recent letter to congressional lawmakers.
“The FAA Contract Tower Program has provided cost-effective and essential air traffic safety services for over three decades,” stated the groups in a Feb. 26 letter to Rep. Nita Lowey (D-17-NY), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. The letter noted strong bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, and urged the lawmakers to appropriate the full $170 million funding level, and extend the bill language adopted in previous spending bills.
“Currently, 256 smaller airports in 46 states participate in the program. Together, these 256 towers handle approximately 28 percent of all air traffic control (ACT) tower aircraft operations in the U.S., but only account for about 14 percent of FAA’s overall budget allotted to ATCT tower operations and save FAA and taxpayers approximately $200 million per year. More importantly, the safety and efficiency record of the FAA Contract Tower Program has been validated numerous times by the DOT Inspector General, as well as by FAA safety audits,” wrote the groups.
In their letter, the aviation organizations noted that, “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. Moreover, federal contract towers operate together with FAA-staffed facilities throughout the country as part of a unified national air traffic control system.
“The bottom line is that, absent this highly successful government/industry partnership, many local communities and smaller airports would not receive the significant safety benefits of ATC services,” wrote the aviation groups.
“The contract tower program supports aviation safety in communities across the country,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “Air traffic control towers are an essential part of the nation’s aviation system. Contract control towers – which are staffed by FAA-certified air traffic controllers – are integral to the FAA’s ability to support the safest, largest and most efficient aviation system in the world.”
In addition to Bolen, the letter was signed by U.S. Contract Tower Association Executive Director J. Spencer Dickerson, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association President and CEO Mark Baker, National Air Transportation Association President Gary Dempsey, National Association of State Aviation Officials President and CEO Shelly Simi, Cargo Airline Association President Stephen Alterman, Regional Airline Association President Faye Malarkey Black, Airports Council International – NA President and CEO Kevin Burke and Air Traffic Control Association President and CEO Peter Dumont.
Also receiving a letter were Reps. David Price (D-4-NC), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-FL), Kay Granger (R-12-TX), and Sens. Richard Shelby (R-AL), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI).