U.S. Contract Tower Association

For Immediate Release For Further Information, Contact:

April 13, 2000 Spencer Dickerson, (703) 824-0504


ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA (April 13, 2000)—The American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and its affiliated organization, the U.S. Contract Tower Association (USCTA), today strongly endorsed the results of the Department of Transportation Inspector General’s (IG) audit of Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Contract Tower Program released April 12 that validates the program and underscores the value to air traffic control (ATC) safety and system efficiency. The audit concluded that contract visual flight rule (VFR) air traffic control towers provide a quality of service comparable to FAA-operated towers and are staffed by controllers who meet the agency’s training and certification requirements. The audit also recommended that FAA revise its draft study of expanding the contract tower program to provide Congress a better perspective of the feasibility, costs and benefits of expanding the program.

Spencer Dickerson, AAAE executive vice president and executive director of the USCTA, praised the IG’s audit and emphasized its residual benefit to smaller communities. "This IG report once again affirms our position that the contract tower program provides safe, high-quality ATC services, receives proper oversight by the FAA and gets high marks from aviation users," Dickerson said. "Because of this program, small communities are able to enjoy the important benefits of a control tower when they would otherwise be forced to operate without this safety feature. We applaud the IG for this thorough report that verifies the program is a significant contributor to air traffic safety. We also commend Congress for its bi-partisan support of the program as well as FAA Administrator Jane Garvey and the agency’s Air Traffic Office for their efforts to develop this program by working closely with users, airports and ATC contractors to ensure its safety and efficiency."

There are currently 189 towers in the FAA contract tower program, which provide VFR control tower services at smaller airports for lower costs than the FAA could otherwise provide. Contracting saves the FAA about $250,000 per tower in annual operating costs while providing a level of service and safety comparable to FAA-operated towers, according to the IG and the Congressional Research Service. A 1998 IG audit of the program found similar results.

In an April 2 interview on AAAE’s Aviation News Today weekly television news show, DOT Inspector General Kenneth Mead said he is "very encouraged" by FAA’s Contract Tower Program, describing it as "a strong and good program." Mead said, "There is no doubt that the towers that have been converted represent cost savings. There is also no doubt that some of them are towers that never would have been funded as regular control towers by the FAA and they have provided service to airports that otherwise would receive none at all."

To receive a copy of the report, contact Jeff Nelligan, spokesperson for the DOT IG office, at (202) 366-6312. The report also will be posted on the DOT website at http://www.oig.dot.gov.


Editor’s Note: AAAE is the largest professional organization for airport executives in the world with over 5,000 members. AAAE established the U.S. Contract Tower Association in 1996 to represented airports that have FAA contract towers.