posted on March 13, 2013 14:37
As the deadline for appealing the FAA’s decision to close three out of every four contract air traffic control towers approached, HAI President Matt Zuccaro reached out directly to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, writing in a letter, “I urge you to consider the importance of keeping these towers open to allow for safe arrivals and departures, to prevent mid-air collisions, and to maintain the safety and efficiency of our national airspace system…”
At the same time, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) submitted an amendment to a spending bill to provide the FAA with funding to keep the towers open.
In his letter to Huerta, Zuccaro stressed the safety and economic implications of the FAA’s decision, which would shutter 189 of the 251 air traffic control towers staffed by FAA contractors — 174 of them all on the first day sequestration actually takes effect, April 7.
“[I]t is important to note that the safety rationale for authorizing these contract towers has not changed, wrote Zuccaro. “These landing facilities still reach or exceed the threshold number of daily operations to qualify for a control tower under the contract control tower program.”
He also shared information from HAI members on how the tower shutdowns would affect those members. The two largest helicopter flight schools in the United States — Bristow Academy and Hillsboro Aviation — each say that tower closures will be detrimental to flight training at a time when there is mounting concern about the number of qualified helicopter pilots.
The best possible solution to the contract tower issue is to find the FAA the money necessary to keep the towers open.
HAI currently believes an amendment offered by Sen. Moran is the best legislative vehicle to accomplish that. The amendment provides an additional $50 million to fund the contract tower program. According to published reports, the Moran amendment has the most co-sponsors among the two-dozen amendments offered to the six-month spending bill, and appears to have the most bipartisan support.
HAI urges U.S. members and members with operations in the United States to call their respective senators and press them to support the Moran amendment.