The House Aviation Subcommittee held a hearing this morning to review the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) Federal Contract Tower (FCT) program. The FCT program operates 250 towers across the country, with 234 fully-funded by the FAA. The 12th Congressional District has three airports in the program -- St. Louis Regional, Williamson County Regional, and Southern Illinois.
The Committee heard testimony from U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin Scovell; FAA Air Traffic Organization Chief Operating Officer (ATO COO) David Grizzle; FAA Assistant Administrator for Policy, International Affairs and Environment Julie Oettinger; U.S. Contract Tower Association Policy Board Chairman Walter Strong; National Air Traffic Controllers Association Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert; and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Senior Vice President of Government Relations Melissa Rudinger.
In his statement, Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerry Costello (D-IL) emphasized the importance of the FCT program and the contributions it makes to aviation safety. He also noted the need to carefully weigh the ongoing cost-benefit analysis of the program.
"To that end, I understand that the FAA is consulting with stakeholders as it updates its cost and benefit calculations for towers in the program. Some airport stakeholders have expressed concern that in the future, more towers could be required to pay a cost share or, in some cases, be forced to pay more. If they cannot afford do to this, they would have to leave the program .Going forward, I urge the FAA to work with stakeholders as it updates its calculations of costs and benefits. If the FAA finds any challenges with program costs and benefits as it recalculates those figures, we must be ready to address those issues in a manner that takes all stakeholders' views into account."
In addition, Costello asked several questions of the witnesses regarding the need to implement the voluntary safety reporting program for controllers that is currently being used in FAA-operated towers. Costello asked ATO COO David Grizzle what is being done to ensure the program is in place in contract towers as well - including if program implementation will be included in future contracts. Grizzle was unsure of the duration of current contracts, and will provide that information to the Subcommittee.