Senior leaders of nine different aviation associations jointly urged U.S. lawmakers to ensure that the contract tower program is fully funded in the Fiscal Year 2019 transportation appropriations bill. The aviation groups made that appeal in a March 2 letter, as Congress is in the throes of wrapping up work on a full-year FY2018 bill. The federal government is funded through March 23 under a series of short-term extensions.
While focus has been on 2018 funding, the associations—which represent a cross-section of airlines, cargo carriers, airports, and business and general aviation groups—are hoping to get a jump on Fiscal Year 2019 by reinforcing the need for continued support for the program. Specifically, they would like to see Congress provide $172 million for the program, the same approved in previous spending bills.
“Events of the past several years have made it abundantly clear that the FAA Contract Tower Program enjoys strong bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress,” the groups agreed in the letter. "Keeping funding stable will ensure that all 254 contract towers are funded," they added.
“Together, these 254 towers handle approximately 28 percent of all air traffic control tower (ATCT) aircraft operations in the U.S., but only account for about 14 percent of the FAA’s overall budget allotted to ATC tower operations and save the FAA and taxpayers approximately $200 million per year,” they said. The program further enables placing towers at airports that otherwise would not have one.