FAA Contract Towers Get Reprieve, for Now
The FAA–and its parent organization, the Department of Transportation–announced on Friday that it will keep open the 149 contract towers that the agency slated for closure on June 15. These cuts were to be made to comply with sequestration, but on April 26 Congress gave the FAA the authority to shift funds to stop controller furloughs and tower closures.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said his agency “has determined that the recently enacted Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 will allow the FAA to transfer sufficient funds to end employee furloughs and keep the 149 low-activity contract towers originally slated for closure in June open for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013. The FAA will also put $10 million toward reducing cuts and delays in core NextGen programs and will allocate approximately $11 million to partially restore the support of infrastructure in the National Airspace System.”
Aviation alphabet groups praised the move. “We applaud the decision by LaHood to leave these towers open,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “These tower facilities are integral components in the world’s safest, largest, most diverse and most efficient aviation system.”
It is still unknown how the FAA will comply with sequestration cuts in its FY2014 budget, which starts October 1, so the reprieve for some or all of the 149 contract towers, as well as controller furloughs, could just be temporary.