AOPA, along with eight other industry organizations, sent a letter to members of Congress on March 2, urging them to allocate $172 million to protect funding for the highly successful FAA Contract Tower Program.
The letter emphasized the 36-year-old program’s cost-effectiveness and essential air traffic safety, and asked Congress to dedicate full funding for the 2019 fiscal year. The funding supports 254 small airports in 46 states that handle approximately 28 percent of all air traffic control tower operations. Currently, the program only accounts for 14 percent of the FAA’s tower operations budget and saves taxpayers nearly $200 million per year.
The letter also highlights the program’s impressive safety record, which has been validated numerous times by the Department of Transportation Inspector General and FAA safety audits. With a training program identical to FAA-certificated air traffic controllers, the majority of contract controllers are former FAA controllers, and about 70 percent are veterans with prior military ATC experience.
“FAA contract tower controllers do an excellent job of handling ATC services at hundreds of our nation’s smaller airports in rural communities,” said AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker. “We believe funding for this program is essential to secure aviation safety and promote economic development. We encourage bipartisan support of this cost-effective government/industry partnership.”
In addition to AOPA, the letter was also signed by the U.S. Contract Tower Association, Regional Airline Association, National Business Aviation Association, National Air Transportation Association, Airports Council International, National Association of State Aviation Officials, Air Traffic Control Association, and Cargo Airline Association.