Feb. 20, 2020
NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen recently joined with leaders of eight other aviation groups in urging Congress to bolster funding for the FAA Contract Tower (FCT) program in the U.S. Department of Transportation/FAA FY2021 appropriations bill.
Now in its 38th year, the FCT program provides a critical safety role at 256 community airports across 46 states, including at many facilities utilized by business aviation. In addition to maintaining the current roster of FCTs, the requested appropriation of $172.8 million would also fund additional contract control towers expected to be added to the program in the coming fiscal year.
In the Feb. 19 letter to U.S. House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rep. Nina Lowry (D-17-NY) and other members of the House and Senate appropriations committees, Bolen and others noted FCTs handle approximately 29% of all air traffic control tower (ATCT) aircraft operations in the U.S. but only account for about 10% of FAA’s overall budget allotted for control tower operations.
“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,” stated the letter, which also noted the number of airports utilizing contract towers in each lawmaker’s state.
NBAA has been a staunch advocate for FCTs, including when the FAA threatened to close nearly 150 contract towers in 2013 to meet mandated budget-curtailment requirements under federal budget sequestration. The association helped rally lawmakers’ support for the contract facilities, and successfully mitigated the potential impact from tower closures on business aviation operations.
“Events of the past several years have made it abundantly clear that the FAA Contract Tower Program enjoys strong bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress,” read the letter. “We urge you to dedicate full funding to the program for FY ’21 and extend the bill language that was adopted in previous spending bills.”
The letter was also sent to House Appropriations Ranking Member Rep. Kay Granger (R-12-TX) and committee members Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-FL) and David Price (D-4-NC), as well as to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Vice Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and committee members Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME).
In addition to Bolen, the letter was signed by J. Spencer Dickerson, executive director, U.S. Contract Tower Association; Faye Malarkey Black, president, Regional Airline Association; Mark Baker, president and CEO, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; Timothy Obitts, president and CEO, National Air Transportation Association; Kevin Burke, president and CEO, Airports Council International; John R. Binder III, chairman, National Association of State Aviation Officials; Peter F. Dumont, president and CEO, Air Traffic Control Association and Stephen A. Alterman, president, Cargo Airline Association.