During a Commerce Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Mark Pryor today pressed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on its plan to eliminate funding for 149 contract control towers nationwide, including Fayetteville and Texarkana, due to sequestration.
"The FAA has repeatedly said that the Air Traffic Control Tower Program is one of its most cost-effective programs," Pryor said. "That's why it makes no sense that the FAA would force this program to shoulder a disproportionate amount of sequestration cuts. The FAA needs to give us the analysis behind their decision-making process."
After raising concerns about cost, Pryor questioned the FAA about the impact its plan would have on military training and readiness. Under the current proposal, the FAA would close the Texarkana control tower--one of the only facilities in the region that serves a wide range of recreational and military aircraft. Its proximity to two Military Operational Areas (MOA) and its central U.S. location makes this airport a major hub for military aircraft transit and training.
Pryor said Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB) relies on the Fayetteville Airport's hilly terrain and small runway to train for its current Afghanistan mission. Unfortunately, this control tower is now scheduled to be closed. Without this tower, LRAFB may have to find a new location to continue its tactical training.
"After looking over the numbers, it's clear the FAA needs to reconsider its decision to close these towers," Pryor said. "I hope the FAA will consider the negative impact on military readiness and public safety, and find a sensible solution that keeps these towers open."
Last week, Pryor signed on to bipartisan legislation to prevent the FAA from targeting air traffic control towers. In March, he joined a coalition of senators on an amendment to the Senate Continuing Resolution (CR) prohibiting these cuts.