The federal budget bill adopted last week includes funding for more than 250 airports which rely on contracted air traffic controllers.
On of them is Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh.
In a battle for funding that’s gone on almost a year, Wittman Regional Airport has been a target for politicians attempting to balance the federal budget.
“The uncertainty has been phenomenally, large if you want to put it that way,” said Peter Moll, the airport’s director. “As you recall for a while it was definitely no, then possibly yes. It’s just been a roller coaster all along.”
For now the federal government says it will cover the cost of contracted air traffic control services nationwide through September 30th at a cost of 140 million dollars.
The one exception, is for the week of EAA when the FAA takes over staffing at the tower. Last year the FAA billed EAA 447 thousand dollars for the cost, which the organization is fighting in court.
“FAA has already said they intend to charge once again for air traffic control. That’s why we petitioned the court last year saying that FAA was not justified in doing something like this, that it really is Congressional oversight that designates how taxes and fees will be collected,” said EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski.
On average the control tower overseas about 150 operations a day which includes take-offs and landings. On paper, it’s the third busiest airport in the state. If the funding was not approved, the tower would be unmanned and pilots would be forced to communicate amongst themselves.
Moll said, “You don’t see a lot of the single engine aircraft. They’re quiet. They don’t make a lot of noise like a airliner does so when they don’t hear aircraft they think the airport is dead. Not true at all because we have hundreds of jobs here based on the airport which drives the economic impact of the airport up.”