A coalition of aviation groups, including the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE)/U.S. Contract Tower Association (USCTA) and NASAO, have written leaders of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees to reassert the vital role that contract air traffic control towers play in improving safety and savings taxpayer dollars. In the letter, the aviation groups made a simple request that language be included in a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) appropriations bill to ensure contact 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,” wrote USCTA Executive Director J. Spencer Dickerson and the leaders of eight other aviation groups. “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,” the letter continued. “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 35-year partnership of government and the aviation industry. 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, and connect smaller and rural airports to the national air transportation system.
In addition to those benefits, contract towers provide significant support for military readiness and national security operations. Forty-seven percent of all military operations at civilian airports in the United States occur at FAA contract towers.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are currently working on an FAA appropriations bill that will set the agency’s funding for FY 2018. The letter requests language ensuring that the contract towers are fully funded at $159 million, which has strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. The language proposed in the letter 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 this week 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.
In addition to Dickerson, the letter was signed by leaders of the Regional Airline Association, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the National Business Aviation Administration, the National Air Transportation Association, Airports Council International—North American, the National Association of State Aviation Officials, the Air Traffic Control Association and the Cargo Airline Association.