January 09, 2014

Manchin, Inhofe Urge Full Funding of FAA Contract Towers

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) today sent a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies (THUD) urging that members fully fund the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Contract Tower Program.

“It is critical that we invest in our country’s infrastructure and air safety,” Senator Manchin said. “Reliable transportation is crucial to our state and our country’s economy, jobs, and way of life, and I strongly urge my colleagues to fully fund the FAA’s Contract Tower Program.”

In the letter, the Senators wrote: “As you finalize negotiations on the fiscal year 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, we urge you to include language ensuring full and dedicated funding for the Contract Tower Program as part of the fiscal year 2014 budget for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“In response to mandatory sequestration cuts in 2013, FAA proposed to eliminate funding for 149 contract towers in the program, a disproportional cut that far exceeded the reductions to most areas of the agency's budget. If implemented, this dramatic cut and the closure of the identified towers would have increased traffic at the remaining contract and FAA-operated towers and hindered the safety and integrity of general aviation operations.
“The contract tower program is one of the FAA's most cost-effective programs. Contract towers handle approximately 28 percent of the nation's air traffic control tower operations but they account for only 14 percent of the FAA's total tower operations budget. Additionally, the average contract tower operates at one-third the cost of a federal control tower, though it is held to the same standard of excellence.”

To read the full text of the letter, click here.


In 2013, the FAA announced plans to shut down 173 Contract Air Traffic Control Towers, as a result of budget cuts resulting from sequestration. These closures would have affected three West Virginia airports in Wheeling, Lewisburg, and Parkersburg and resulted in the loss of jobs and economic commerce in these regions.

In response, Senator Manchin cosponsored S. 687, a bill to prohibit the FAA from suspending or terminating the operation of any air traffic control tower whether it’s operated by the FAA or a contractor. The bill would require the FAA to achieve the mandated sequester savings through spending cuts in other parts of the FAA budget.
In addition, Senator Manchin cosponsored S.794, the Dependable Air Service Act of 2013 which would give the Department of Transportation the flexibility to ensure that FAA furloughs would not cause flight delays or cancellations.