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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bipartisan Group Introduces Bill to Block FAA Tower Closures

By Woodrow Bellamy III

Lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a bipartisan bill that would block FAA's planned closure of 149 air traffic control towers resulting from the sequestration budget cuts implemented in March. 
 
The Air Traffic Control Tower Funding Restoration Act would transfer funding from FAA's facilities and research account to continue funding the contract tower program. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), all of whom have contract towers in their states scheduled to be closed. 
 
"Local air-traffic-control towers have served a vital role in our country’s aviation infrastructure for over 30 years and are integral to the success of local businesses and rural communities. They prove to be a safe, cost-effective alternative to federally operated towers in low-traffic areas and should not be closed without an opportunity to evaluate alternative approaches the FAA could take within its operating budget," said Hudson. 
 
Last week FAA announced it would delay the closures of all 149 towers until June 15. The phased four-week closures process was originally scheduled to begin April 7. Most of the towers are at small and medium-sized airports with fewer than 150,000 annual takeoffs and landings.
 
The sequester required the agency to reduce its budget by $637 million, and the tower closures are expected to save about $30-40 million.
 
The House bill is based on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) that he offered in March as part of the Senate continuing resolution bill to fund the government through the end of the 2013 fiscal year. Moran is expected to introduce a similar bill in the Senate to block the tower closures later this month. 

Related: FAA Delays Tower Closures Until June 15

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