March 20, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
Contract control towers provide essential, cost-effective service to 249 airports in 46 states, justifying their full funding in the fiscal 2013 FAA appropriations bill, said AOPA President Craig Fuller and the chief executives of 11 other aviation organizations.
Contract towers handle about 28 percent of all control tower air traffic operations, but account for only 14 percent of the FAA’s tower operations spending, the organizations’ chiefs said in a letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders.
With Congress to take up the FAA’s 2013 budget, the organizations “urge you to support funding of $136.1 million for the regular FAA Contract Tower Program, as well as an additional $10.35 million authorized for the continuation of the contract tower cost-sharing program,” they wrote. “Full funding of the contract tower program will permit continuation of this important FAA safety program and allow additional non-towered airports to receive the vital safety benefits of a control tower.”
The safety and efficiency record of the FAA Contract Tower Program “has been validated numerous times by the DOT Inspector General (IG) and FAA safety audits, as well as by the National Transportation Safety Board,” but the Obama administration’s funding request is about 6 percent lower than the level sought by the aviation industry.
In recent months the industry has monitored other efforts to curtail the program’s funding. In December 2011, AOPA reported that the Office of Management and Budget had targeted the program for cuts--characterized as potentially “devastating” at the time by the American Association of Airport Executives, whose senior executive vice president, J. Spencer Dickerson, signed the March 16 letter to the appropriators. .
The letter also pointed out that contract control towers help smaller airports develop general aviation and commercial air service, and promote local economic development.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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