Contract Towers to Remain Open Throughout FY2013

This afternoon, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced 149 contract towers slated to close on June 15 will remain open for the remainder of fiscal year 2013 (e.g., until September 30, 2013).

The DOT issued the following statement describing its actions:

"Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today that DOT 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 towards 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."

The Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 authorized the use of up to $253 million from other FAA programs--particularly the Airport Improvement Program (AIP)--for FAA operations.

ACI-NA President Greg Principato issued the following statement regarding the DOT's announcement:

"We are pleased that FAA has continued to listen to airports' calls to fund critical operational priorities by ending plans to close 149 contract towers, ensuring the full operational capacity of the air traffic control system will remain intact.

"This is welcome news as contract towers provide a critical operational function and should not have been subject to sequestration. However, ACI-NA remains deeply concerned about the unprecedented use of AIP funding for funding this important FAA operation. Since these funds were paid by passengers to maintain and enhance airport runways and taxiways, we believe AIP funding should never be used to pay for FAA operations."

ACI-NA notes that the DOT's decision today only applies through September 30, 2013. Focus will now turn to what impacts sequestration-related budget cuts will have on FAA programs--including contract towers--in FY 2014 and beyond.

We will be working with the ACI-NA Government Affairs team on these issues in the coming weeks and provide additional information as it becomes available.