Senators Call For Funding Of Contract Tower Airports

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Thirty-six members of the U.S. Senate sent a bipartisan letter to the FAA on Tuesday urging the administration to implement a provision that would make airports using the contract tower program eligible for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants. The provision allowing AIP funding for airports with contract towers was included in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which was signed into law in October. The FAA contract tower program began in 1982 and now includes over 250 airports across the U.S.

“Not only do these contract towers provide an important safety service, but they do it in a very cost-effective manner,” the letter reads. “This is demonstrated by the fact that contract towers handle approximately 29 percent of all U.S. air traffic control tower operations, but account for just 11 percent of FAA’s overall budget allotted to such operations.” Reported savings from the contract tower program are estimated at $200 million annually.

According to the letter (PDF), the contract tower airport funding provision was marked as a priority consideration “in light of the safety, financial, and other benefits that these towers provide to small airports and rural areas.” In addition, the letter requested an explanation from the FAA on how it intends to prioritize and ensure funding for air traffic control tower construction, improvements and related equipment. It also asked for the FAA to provide a list of which airports requested AIP funding for towers and tower equipment and the reasoning behind any denials of those requests by the end of the fiscal year.

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