The American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and its affiliate organization the U.S. Contract Tower Association (USCTA) announced today that they have filed suit in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in advance of the agency’s plans to close 149 contract air traffic control towers beginning on April 7.
"It’s unfortunate that our efforts to reason with the FAA to keep contract towers open and operational have fallen on deaf ears," AAAE President, Meetings and International and Executive Director of USCTA J. Spencer Dickerson said. We must now rely on either Congress or the Courts to step in and keep the agency from proceeding with the closure of important air traffic control facilities that play a critical role in ensuring air safety in communities across the country."
In a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta dated April 2, 2013, Kenneth Quinn, counsel to AAAE and USCTA, requested the FAA to reconsider its closure decision and impose an emergency stay, noting: "No justifiable reason exists to single out the contract tower program and make it the Administration’s poster child for sequestration cuts." Quinn, a former FAA chief counsel and partner at Pillsbury Winthrop, added, "Nor should such fundamental changes occur without proper notice, comment, and analyses."
"Over the past few decades, the FAA has closed only a handful of air traffic control towers, yet the agency is now committed to closing 149 contract towers beginning on April 7," Dickerson noted. "Contract towers have long been an integral part of the FAA’s system of managing the nation’s complex airspace, and the decision to shutter these critical air traffic control facilities on such an unprecedented and wide-scale basis raises serious concerns about safety – both at the local level and throughout the aviation system."
Dickerson added that "Given the breadth and scope of the closures, the FAA cannot possibly fully understand the safety impacts, the operational impacts or the immediate and long-term economic hardships this decision will have on affected airports and communities. While we understand and appreciate the challenges associated with implementing budget cuts resulting from sequestration, the decision by the Administration to disproportionately target the contract tower program represents a regrettable deviation from the role the FAA has always played as a guardian of aviation system safety."