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U.S. Contract Tower Association

FAA Federal Contract Tower Program
"The Government/Industry Partnership Dedicated to Air Traffic Safety"

To maintain the current program, the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and its affiliated organization, the U.S. Contract Tower Association, request $86 million in the FY '05 DOT Appropriations bill for FAA's regular Federal Contract Tower Program in addition to $7 million for the continuation of the cost-sharing program.

BACKGROUND: The FAA Federal Contract Tower Program has provided essential air traffic safety services since 1982. Currently, 219 smaller airports in 46 states participate in the program. This represents 45 percent of all control towers in the U.S. In addition, federal contract towers handle approximately 25 percent of all control tower aircraft operations in the U.S. Several non-towered airports are expected to enter the program, subject to available funding.

The safety and efficiency record of the Federal Contract Tower Program for the past two decades has been validated numerous times by the DOT Inspector General (IG) and FAA safety audits, as well as by the National Transportation Safety Board. The IG also has verified the cost-effectiveness of the program to taxpayers.

All federal contract controllers are FAA certified air traffic controllers who meet the identical training and operating standards as FAA controllers. The vast majority of federal contract controllers are retired military or FAA controllers. Approximately, 99 percent have FAA or military air traffic control experience.

FAA, the premier air traffic safety agency in the world, controls and oversees all aspects of the federal contract tower program, including operating procedures, staffing plans, certification of contract controllers, security and facility evaluations.

As a result of this 22-year government/industry partnership, the Federal Contract Tower Program: (1) enhances aviation safety at smaller airports that in many cases would not have a tower; (2) saves local airports and communities up to $80 million annually; (3) consistently receives high marks for customer service from aviation users (pilots, airlines, FBOs, flights schools and corporate flight departments), and (4) helps small airports with retaining and developing commercial air service and corporate aviation.

Federal contract towers operate together with FAA-staffed facilities throughout the country as part of a unified national air traffic control system. A case in point was September 11, 2001, when 1,300 FAA contract controllers from 219 airports worked side by side with the FAA controller workforce to safely land thousands of airplanes that day. Additionally, federal contract controllers work closely with FAA and the Department of Homeland Security on in-flight aviation security issues.

Without this federal program, FAA budget constraints could force closure of towers or, at a minimum, force airports and local communities/taxpayers to pay for air traffic safety services.

For further information on FAA's Federal Contract Tower Program, please contact Spencer Dickerson of the AAAE office at 703/824-0500, ext. 130 or email at or visit

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