Aviation organizations including AOPA are asking lawmakers in the House and Senate to protect funding for contract control towers.
In the March 16 letter, the groups ask appropriators to support bill language that “not less than $159,000,000 shall be [provided] for the fully funded and cost-share towers in the contract tower program.” That funding level would be enough to maintain existing contract towers and new facilities anticipated by the end of fiscal year2017.
The contract tower program has been in place for more than 30 years and currently serves 253 smaller airports in 46 states.
“Together these 253 towers handle approximately 28 percent of all air traffic control tower (ATCT) aircraft operations in the U.S. but only account for about 14 percent of FAA’s overall budget allotted to ATCT tower operations. More importantly, the safety and efficiency record of the FAA Contract Tower Program has been validated numerous times by the DOT Inspector General, as well as by FAA safety audits,” the letter states.
Controllers at contract towers are certified by the FAA and must meet exactly the same training and operating standards as controllers employed by the FAA. Without the towers, the letter asserts, many smaller communities would not receive the safety benefits of having ATC services at their fields.
In addition to AOPA, the letter was signed by the U.S. Contract Tower Association, which is an affiliate of the American Association of Airport Executives; Regional Airline Association; National Business Aviation Association; National Air Transportation Association; Airports Council International; National Association of State Aviation Officials; Air Traffic Control Association; Air Carrier Association of America; and Cargo Airline Association.