Contract Tower Program Must Continue, Much of Industry Says

Non-FAA towers handle 28 percent of U.S. air traffic.

flight tower
Industry executives have rallied to make sure the financial support for the program covering 253 towers doesn’t slip between the cracks of the FAA's upcoming 2017 appropriations bill.Rob Mark

Worries about Congress separating ATC from the rest of the FAA aren’t the only concern for much of the aviation industry. Following the near shutdown of most of the nation’s contract control towers during sequestration in 2013, 11 alphabet group executives yesterday said they want confirmation that financial support for the program covering 253 towers doesn’t slip between the cracks of the agency’s upcoming 2017 appropriations bill. The letter said, “Events of the past several years have made it abundantly clear that the FAA contract tower program enjoys strong bipartisan support from both chambers of Congress.”

Senior executives from the National Business Aviation Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the U.S. Contract Tower Association, the Regional Airline Association, the National Air Transportation Association, Airports Council International, the National Association of State Aviation Officials, the Air Traffic Control Association, the Air Carrier Association of America and the Cargo Airline Association added their signatures to a letter sent to House and Senate committee members. Noticeably missing from the list were Airlines for America and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

Asking that financing for contract towers continue at a sum, “not less than $159 million,” the contract tower letter of support was sent to the House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), as well as to the committee’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Ranking Member David Price (D-NC). On the Senate side, the document went to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski and the committee’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI).

While contract towers handle 28 percent of air traffic around the U.S., according to the letter, those same facilities account for only 14 percent of the agency’s overall budget.