April 18, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
Despite an announcement by the FAA that will delay the closing of 149 federal air traffic control towers under automatic sequestration cuts until June 15, Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have introduced the Protect Our Skies Act, which would stop the Department of Transportation from closing any towers during fiscal years 2013 and 2014. The bill has increased its bipartisan support to 30 senators since the date of introduction.
“The fight to protect FAA contract towers has brought together a bipartisan coalition of Senators committed to finding more responsible ways to cut spending than by compromising safety,” Moran said. “Although we were blocked from saving these towers through the appropriations process, we still have the opportunity to protect aviation safety by passing the Protect Our Skies Act. The simple fact that the FAA is able to delay the closures until June shows that the agency’s financial state is not as dire as initially projected. We can and should put politics aside and pass this common-sense solution.”
“This bipartisan bill would permanently prohibit the Department of Transportation from arbitrarily closing air traffic control towers, including towers at six airports in Connecticut that are vital to jobs, economic growth, and air safety,” Blumenthal said. “The FAA has $50 million necessary to sustain all 149 air traffic control towers, and the closing is a misguided decision causing needless harm to employees, their communities, and regional economies, as well as air travel.”
On the House side, Reps. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), and Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) have introduced the Air Traffic Control Tower Funding Restoration Act, a bipartisan bill that restores funding for contractor-operated air traffic control towers without appropriating new funds, which now has more than 20 cosponsors.
“Last month, the FAA announced it would direct what we believe are a disproportionate share of their sequestration cuts towards the Federal Contract Towers program budget,” said Cotton, Braley, and Hudson in a statement to introduce the legislation. “Local air-traffic-control towers have served a vital role in our country’s aviation infrastructure for over 30 years and are integral to the success of local businesses and rural communities. They prove to be a safe, cost-effective alternative to federally operated towers in low-traffic areas and should not be closed without an opportunity to evaluate alternative approaches the FAA could take within its operating budget.”
“Senators Moran and Blumenthal and Congressmen Cotton, Braley, and Hudson have demonstrated their steadfast support for general aviation,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “We appreciate their bipartisan leadership in seeking more rational alternatives to the wholesale closure of towers. They are taking a stand for aviation safety, and all of us who fly are grateful for their efforts.”
“We appreciate Senators Moran and Blumenthal continuing their efforts to protect the contract towers,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs. “We are also pleased to have the House engaged on the issue as well, under the thoughtful leadership of Congressmen Cotton, Braley, and Hudson. As we did when the amendment was introduced by Senator Moran earlier this year, AOPA has rallied support for this stand-alone bill and will continue to seek out other cosponsors.”
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.