WASHINGTON, D.C. — Reasserting the critical role provided by contract air traffic control towers at general aviation airports across the United States, GA advocacy groups recently asked lawmakers to preserve their funding in the FAA appropriations bill.
In a March 15 letter to lawmakers, aviation industry leaders requested the inclusion of language under the “FAA Operations” section of the reauthorization measure, suggesting that “not less than $159 million shall be for the fully funded and cost-share towers in the contract tower program.”
“The FAA contract tower program has provided cost-effective and essential air traffic safety services for over three decades,” the letter notes. “Currently, 253 smaller airports in 46 states participate in the program. Together, these 253 towers handle approximately 28% of all air traffic control tower (ATCT) aircraft operations in the U.S., but only account for about 14% of FAA’s overall budget allotted to ATCT tower operations.”
The letter also noted that audits performed by the Department of Transportation inspector general and the FAA have repeatedly validated the safety and efficiency of the FAA contract tower program.
In 2013, the FAA threatened to close 149 federal contract towers to meet budget constraints mandated by federal budget sequestration.
Ultimately, Congress, prompted by concerns raised by GA advocacy groups, compelled the FAA to keep the contract towers open. Funding for the towers has since been maintained through the current fiscal year by a federal omnibus appropriations bill.
“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,” the letter concluded. “We urge you to dedicate full funding to the program for FY 2017 and extend the bill language that was adopted in the FY 2016 spending bill.”
The letter was signed Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association; J. Spencer Dickerson, executive director of the U.S. Contract Tower Association; Faye Malarkey Black, president of the Regional Airline Association; Mark Baker, president and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; Thomas L. Hendricks, president and CEO of the National Air Transportation Association; Kevin M. Burke, president and CEO of Airports Council International; Greg Principato, president of the National Association of State Aviation Officials; Peter F. Dumont, president of the Air Traffic Control Association; Edward P. Faberman, executive director of the Air Carrier Association of America; and Stephen A. Alterman, president of the Cargo Airline Association.