Tucson, Ariz. (April 26, 2013) - Yesterday evening, the Senate passed a bill to end Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic controller furloughs caused by the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester. The bill eliminates the FAA's budget shortfall by transferring funds from the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). AIP trust funds are paid by air travel passengers and are earmarked for airports to use in making critical safety, security and capital improvements.
The bill does not directly address the FAA's decision to close 149 federal contract air traffic control towers across the nation, including the tower at Ryan Airfield here in Tucson. However, the bill states that if the DOT determines that keeping some or all of the contract towers open would be "necessary to prevent reduced operations and staffing of the FAA," some of the funds could be used to keep contract towers scheduled for closure open. It is unknown at this time if this is planned.
While Tucson Airport Authority (TAA) supports the cessation of air traffic controller furloughs, and has been actively involved in petitioning the FAA to reverse its decision to close Ryan's air traffic control tower, we are deeply disappointed that this solution relies on AIP funds. TAA has been working with industry groups in supporting bipartisan legislation that would fund the FAA while keeping AIP monies intact and allowing them to be used for their intended purpose.
At this time, the tower at Ryan is scheduled to close June 15, which will result in job losses and may compromise safety. TAA will continue to fight to keep the tower open, as well as working toward reinstatement of AIP funds for critical airport improvement efforts.