Nine aviation advocacy groups have asked Congress to fully fund the Contract Tower Program as part of the FAA’s fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill.
In a March 2 letter to lawmakers, industry leaders voiced support for language in the current version of the bill that calls for “not less than $172,000,000” in funding for the program.
“The FAA Contract Tower Program has provided cost-effective and essential air traffic safety services for over three decades,” the groups stated in the letter. “More importantly, the safety and efficiency of the FAA Contract Tower Program has been validated numerous times by the Department of Transportation Inspector General, as well as by FAA safety audits.”
The program supports ATC towers at 254 smaller airports in 46 states. While the towers handle 28% of all ATC operations in the U.S., they account for only 14% of FAA’s overall ATC tower operations budget.
Contract towers are staffed by FAA-certified 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 ATC experience.
The 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 they play a critical role in expanding tower services to the communities they serve, GA advocates note.
“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 reads.
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).
Alphabet groups involved in the letter include the National Business Aviation Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, National Association of State Officials, National Air Transportation Association, and the Airport Councils International-NA.
You can read the full letter here.