The US-based National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and 10 other aviation organisations have signed a joint letter to leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, thanking them for legislation passed earlier this year to preserve contract air traffic control towers slated for closure, but to also reaffirm the need for continued funding for the facilities in the future.
“Events of recent months have made it abundantly clear that the FAA Contract Tower Programme enjoys strong bipartisan support in both Chambers, and we urge Congress to dedicate funding to the programme for FY2014,” reads the May 29 letter sent to House appropriations committee Chairman Harold Rogers, Senate appropriations committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski and other ranking committee members.
Earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced its intent to close 149 federal contract control towers in order to meet budget-curtailment requirements in effect because of budget sequestration, or reduced spending by federal agencies to help curb the nation’s deficit. That decision drew significant concerns from airport leaders, aviation groups and elected officials at all levels of government.
Following passage of congressional legislation intended to preserve the towers, Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced May 10 that the FAA would instead use part of $253 million in reallocated funds authorized by the congressional bill to keep the facilities open through September 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Transportation leaders have not yet said whether the towers will remain open past the end of September.
In their May 29 letter, aviation-organization leaders urged lawmakers to provide $150 million in dedicated funding in the FY2014 budget to preserve the contract tower programme should sequestration continue to be enforced. “This funding level will fund the current contract towers in addition to several non-towered airports eligible for the program and will continue this important FAA safety programme,” the letter noted.
“NBAA has long maintained that these facilities are integral components in the world’s safest, largest, most diverse and most efficient aviation system,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “As lawmakers debate the federal government’s funding requirements for the upcoming fiscal year, we ask that they also consider the important role that contract towers play in our national airspace system.”
Other signatories to the letter included J. Spencer Dickerson, senior executive vice president for the American Association of Airport Executives; Craig Fuller, president and CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airlines Association; Henry M. Ogrodzinski, president of the National Association of State Aviation Officials; Greg Principato, president of Airports Council International – NA; Pete Dumont, president of the Air Traffic Control Association; Thomas L. Hendricks, president of the National Air Transportation Association; Stephen Alterman, president of the Cargo Airline Association; Edward Faberman, executive director of the Air Carrier Association of America; and Stanley Bernstein, president of the Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association.