Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) hailed Congressional passage of a bill to end the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) furloughs of thousands of air traffic controllers across the country. The Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 allows U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to transfer up to $253 million in funding from other accounts within the department to the FAA in order to get aviation workers back on the job and the nation's air travel back on schedule. The bill, which passed the U.S. Senate last night and the U.S. House today, now heads to President Obama's desk for signature.
"This bill is good news for aviation jobs in Washington state and around the country," Cantwell said. "It means that manufacturing won't be hampered and travelers won't be stalled by an FAA slowdown. The bill also provides the flexibility for the FAA to keep open 149 air traffic control towers -- including at Felts Field in Spokane and towers in Yakima, Renton, Tacoma and Olympia.
"Thanks to this new bill, Washington state travelers and aviation workers can breathe a sigh of relief and get back to business," Cantwell continued. "I'm pleased the Senate and House passed this bill, and I look forward to President Obama signing it into law."
The deal does not explicitly direct the FAA to use transferred funds to prevent the closure of 149 air traffic control towers but it does give the FAA flexibility to do so. The 149 contract towers -- which are operated by contractors for the FAA -- are scheduled to close on June 15.
Five contract towers in Washington state would be among the contractor towers closed under the current plan: Renton Municipal Airport, Tacoma Narrows Airport, Yakima Air Terminal/McAllister Field, Felts Field in Spokane, and Olympia Regional Airport. View the full list here.
Cantwell has been a leading advocate of keeping the contract towers open. During a Commerce Committee hearing on aviation safety on April 16, Cantwell questioned FAA Administrator Michael Huerta about the potential impact to Washington state communities of FAA budget cuts to air traffic control tower programs. On April 12, Cantwell sent a letter with a bipartisan group of six other Senate and House aviation leaders urging the FAA to prevent the closure of 149 air traffic control towers across the country.