Congress Moves To Block Tower Closures

House and Senate bills would prohibit tower shutdowns.

Control Tower

Control Tower

The House and Senate this week introduced bills to block the FAA from closing 149 control towers at airports across the country as part of government sequestration cuts.

The Senate bill, called The Protect Our Skies Act, would prohibit the FAA from closing any control towers, including those operated by the FAA and FAA contractors, as part of sweeping budget cuts that have affected nearly every area of the agency. Its chief cosponsors are Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Bill Nelson, (D-Florida). A separate House bill, called the Air Traffic Control Tower Funding Restoration Act, is sponsored by Reps. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Richard Hudson (R-North Carolina).

FAA officials in March announced that 149 control towers run by FAA contractors would be closed beginning this month. They have since backed off, delaying the closures until June 15 to give time to "resolve multiple legal challenges" after several airports sued in federal court to stop the shutdowns.

The FAA expected to save about $33 million from the tower closures. Under sequestration the FAA must make about $637 million in cuts. If Congress votes to prevent the FAA from closing control towers, the savings will need to come from other areas of the FAA’s budget.