Aviation Groups Ask for Full Funding for Contract Tower Program
In a recent letter to Rep. Nita Lowey (D-17-NY), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, a number of aviation groups asked that the Committee fully fund the Contract Tower Program in the FY 2020 appropriations bill. The $170 million requested will fund the 256 contract towers currently in the program (smaller airports in 46 states) and provide full-year funding for several new airports expected to be added to the program in FY 2020.
The group pointed out that the “FAA Contract Tower Program has provided cost-effective and essential air traffic safety services for over three decades,” and together the “256 towers handle approximately 28 percent of all air traffic control tower aircraft operations in the U.S. but only account for about 14 percent of the FAA’s overall budget allotted to the air traffic control tower operations,” saving the FAA and taxpayers “approximately $200 million per year.” The letter further stated that “the safety and efficiency record of the FAA Contract Tower Program has been validated numerous times by the DOT Inspector General, as well as by FAA safety audits.”
The letter also stated, “The FAA controls and oversees the Contract Tower Program including operating procedures, staffing plans, certification and medical tests of controllers, security and facility evaluations. The contract towers operate together with the FAA-staffed facilities throughout the country as part of the unified national air traffic control system.”
The letter was signed by U.S. Contract Tower Association Executive Director J. Spencer Dickerson, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association President and CEO Mark Baker, National Air Transportation Association President Gary Dempsey, National Association of State Aviation Officials President and CEO Shelly Simi, Cargo Airline Association President Stephen Alterman, Regional Airline Association President Faye Malarkey Black, National Business Aviation Association President and CEO Ed Bolen, Airports Council International – NA President and CEO Kevin Burke and Air Traffic Control Association President and CEO Peter Dumont.
Also receiving a letter were Reps. David Price (D-4-NC), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-FL), Kay Granger (R-12-TX), and Sens. Richard Shelby (R-AL), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI).
TSB Canada Investigates Runway Incursions at CYYZ
The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada submitted Investigation Report A17O0038 regarding runway incursions that occurred on the inner runway (06L/24R) at the Toronto/Lester B. Pearson International Airport (CYYZ). The investigation was conducted for the purpose of advancing transportation safety. There were 27 incursions that occurred between June 2012 and November 2017 and although they weren’t the only ones that took place during that period, the high number raised concern. The study focused on determining the underlying causes and contributing factors of the incidents and to assess the degree of ongoing risk.
All of the incursions studied occurred on the inner runway after the flight crews involved had landed on the outer runway (06R/24L), had been instructed by air traffic control (ATC) to hold short of Runway 06L/24R and despite intending to stop, had missed the visual cues depicting the runway holding positions.
The report stated that “the taxiway layout between the runways has several characteristics that are uncommon compared to those at other airports, both within North America and internationally. The runways are spaced a relatively short distance apart, and the rapid exit taxiways (RETs) provide direct access to the adjacent runway without first progressing to another transitional surface.”
Recommendations from the investigation are as follows: The airport make physical changes to the taxiway layout to address the risk of incursions and; until these changes can be made, make improvements to increase the conspicuity of the runway holding positions; the FAA and the Canadian DOT work with operators to amend procedures so that post-landing checks are sequenced only after landing aircraft are clear of “both parallel runways”; and that Nav Canada amend its phraseology so that safety-critical transmissions “are sufficiently compelling to attract the flight crew’s attention.”
Customs Now Available at Witham Field in Florida
Arriving international flights to Florida’s east coast now has another option for customs processing – Witham Field (SUA) at Stuart now has a new, stand-alone U.S. Customs facility, which is the first intermodal clearance facility of its kind in the state that will allow pilots, boaters and visitors to be processed.
Witham Field has become more popular for aviation recently due to presidential TFRs and is also the closest airport to Jupiter Island. Hours for the new customs facility at SUA will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Service fees will range from $30 for single-engine piston aircraft to $500 for heavy jets. After-hours services and international garbage disposal are available for additional fees.