The FAA has released a guide for pilots affected by the upcoming tower closures.
It begins: Airports operate safely throughout the United States with and without towers. On April 7, the FAA will stop funding for 149 contract control towers in three phases that did not meet the national interest screening criteria.. Funding will stop for 24 contract towers on April 7, 46 contract towers on April 21, and the remaining 79 contract towers on May 5.
“If your airport is one of those affected, we know you have questions,” FAA officials say in the guide.
FAA officials acknowledge that not all questions will be answered in the guide, so it has set up a 24-hour help line at 202-267-4376. Questions also can be be emailed to FCTTransition@faa.gov.
The guide is broken down into sections. The first deals with facilities and equipment:
When the FAA ceases funding for control tower operations, the airport operator has a choice. The airport operator may choose to operate as a non-towered airport. The airport operator may also choose to continue providing tower services as a non-federal control tower. The decision made by the airport operator will most likely affect what happens with the existing tower structure and the equipment inside.
The FAA is prepared to discuss the continued use of buildings and equipment with airports for those who desire to continue providing tower services. The FAA will also discuss the availability of reimbursable agreements where the airport can reimburse the FAA to provide other services (e.g., maintenance, logistics support, etc.).
The FAA will not begin removing equipment and terminating local service agreements immediately. In most cases it will take up to 90 days after the contract tower funding ceases for the FAA to begin disconnecting and removing equipment at the affected towers. FAA owned and maintained equipment that remains with the tower after becoming a non-federal tower will continue to be owned and maintained by the FAA subject to future discussions and possible agreement with the Airport.
The control towers have a variety of personnel working inside today. Contract controllers, FAA employees, and others all work together to provide air traffic services to the flying public.
As the FAA terminates its contracts for air traffic advisory services, the affected companies will determine the status of their employees. If the FAA has its own employees housed at these locations, then the necessary agreements will be made with airports to continue housing them or they will be relocated.
What happens after a tower closure? Any towered airport has a variety of items to consider when their tower closes.
• Frequencies – Closure of the tower does not inhibit the availability of a common traffic frequency which is used by pilots to operate at non-towered airports. The FAA will work with airports to ensure a common traffic frequency is available, along with any other communications capabilities that may be necessary (e.g., ASOS, ATIS, ETC.)
• Pilot-Activated Lights – In many instances, airports already have pilot-controlled lighting available since the vast majority of contract control towers close overnight. In the event the capability is not present, then alternative procedures may be used (e.g., leave lights on). Airports can work with their Airport District Offices to explore federal funding possibilities, through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), for pilot controlled lighting capabilities.
• Weather Observation – Airports have many different types of weather reporting capabilities available to them. Airports may choose to acquire Contract Weather Observers or use Automated weather reporting systems (ASOS, AWOS, etc.) if they are available. The availability of weather information is a critical requirement for air carrier operations to arrive/depart at the airport. The FAA will work with airports, through reimbursable agreements, to ensure the desired level of weather reporting capabilities is available.
To read the full guidelines, click here.