AAAE/USCTA Lead Coalition Asking Congress to Fully Fund Contract Towers

A coalition of aviation groups, including the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE)/U.S. Contract Tower Association (USCTA), today wrote leaders of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees to reassert the vital role that contract air traffic control towers play in improving safety and saving taxpayer dollars. In a letter sent today, the aviation groups made a simple request that language be included in a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) appropriations bill to ensure contract towers can continue to operate without interruption.

“The FAA Contract Tower Program has provided cost-effective and essential air traffic safety services for over three decades. Currently, 256 smaller airports in 46 states participate in the program,” wrote USCTA Executive Director J. Spencer Dickerson and the leaders of eight other aviation groups. “Together these 256 towers handle approximately 29 percent of all air traffic control tower (ATCT) aircraft operations in the U.S. but only account for about 10 percent of FAA’s overall budget allotted to ATCT tower operations and save FAA and taxpayers approximately $200 million per year. 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.”

There are numerous benefits of the Contract Tower Program, a successful 38-year partnership of government and the aviation industry. Among other benefits, contract towers:

  • Save taxpayers approximately $200 million each year;
  • Enhance aviation safety at airports that otherwise would not have a control tower;
  • Help airports in retaining and developing commercial air service and general aviation;
  • Connect smaller and rural airports to the national air transportation system;
  • Provide significant support for military readiness/training and national security operations (47 percent of all military operations at civilian airports in the United States occur at FAA contract towers);
  • Offer employment opportunities for military veterans (70 percent of contract tower controllers are former members of the U.S. Armed Forces); and
  • Play an essential role in supporting disaster relief, law enforcement and emergency medical operations.

As the House and Senate Appropriations Committees work on an FAA appropriations bill that will set the agency’s funding for FY 2021, the letter requests language ensuring that the contract towers are fully funded at $172.8 million. That proposal, which has strong bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, simply ensures contract towers are fully funded from existing accounts and does not require an additional appropriation of limited taxpayer dollars.

The letter was sent today to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and the respective Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittees. Thanks to the efforts of these leaders, the program has enjoyed strong bipartisan support and funding in previous fiscal years.

In addition to USCTA, the letter was signed by leaders of the Regional Airline Association, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the National Business Aviation Association, the National Air Transportation Association, Airports Council International-North America, the National Association of State Aviation Officials, the Air Traffic Control Association and the Cargo Airline Association.