Transportation Subcommittee To Look At Program, DOT IG Audit
The U.S. House Transportation Committee subcommittee on Aviation, chaired by U.S. Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) (pictured),will hold a hearing on Wednesday to review the FAA's Contract Tower Program, and the Department of Transportation Inspector General’s (DOT IG) ongoing audit of the program.
Under the Contract Tower Program, which was begun as a pilot program in 1982 to re-open five Level 1 control towers that had been closed by the air traffic controllers strike, the FAA contracts with private entities to provide air traffic control services at Visual Flight Rules (VFR) airports. The program has a history of reducing the cost of air traffic control services and enhancing aviation safety by providing air traffic services at airports where federally-staffed towers would not be cost effective.
Contract towers, as well as FAA-staffed VFR towers, operate in large and small communities in both urban and rural areas. There are some commercial service airports which also use contract towers. The FAA maintains oversight of the contract towers and the controllers who work in them. All contract controllers are certified by the FAA, and contract tower facilities are monitored on a regular basis by the agency. A hearing briefing document asserts that over 99 percent of the employees at contract towers are former FAA or U.S. military controllers with an average of 20 years experience.
The DOT IG is updating a 2003 report that showed contract towers to be at least as safe as FAA towers, and significantly more cost effective. The DOT IG and others will provide testimony in regard to the new audit and the program.
There will be two panels of witnesses at the Wednesday hearing.
The Honorable Calvin L. Scovel, Inspector General, United States Department of Transportation
The Honorable David Grizzle, Chief Operating Officer, Air Traffic Organization, Federal Aviation Administration
The Honorable Julie Oettinger, Assistant Administrator for Policy, International Affairs and Environment, Federal Aviation Administration
Mr. Walter B. Strong, A.A.E., Chairman, United States Contract Tower Association Policy Board
Ms. Trish Gilbert, Executive Vice President, National Air Traffic Controllers Association
Melissa Rudinger, Senior Vice President of Government Relations, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
The hearing is set to begin at 1000 EDT Wednesday in the Rayburn Office Building in Washington, D.C.