Senate Funding Measure Seeks to Preserve Towers, but at a Price
Pulling funds from FAA research budget could have adverse effects
March 13, 2013 - A proposal by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) that would restore funding to nearly 200 FAA and contract control towers is a good start toward easing some of FAA's mandated sequestration budget cuts that are disproportionately impacting GA, but EAA warns against undermining other FAA programs that would provide long-term benefits.
Sen. Moran's proposed amendment to a continuing resolution, which would keep the federal government operating beyond March 27, moves $50 million of undesignated funds from FAA research and capital projects to fund contract control towers throughout the nation. Those towers are scheduled to be closed or have their operations scaled back in early April.
"With general aviation bearing more than 90 percent of the FAA's mandated budget cuts under sequestration, it's gratifying to see Congress engaging in a discussion about maintaining safety through important GA services that have been proven cost-effective," said Doug Macnair, EAA's vice president of government relations. "While the contract tower program is very important to busy GA airports, we must be mindful that diverting R&D funds to support contract towers is not without significant consequences."
One example of potential research programs that could be impacted by a R&D funding reallocation to contract towers is the Piston Aviation Fuel Initiative. That program was designed by industry and the FAA to evaluate viable unleaded replacement options for 100LL avgas that would satisfy the existing fleet to the greatest degree possible. Cuts to the R&D budget that would fund the unleaded fuel program could affect a vast majority of GA operators, especially as the Environmental Protection Agency evaluates the impact of GA aircraft lead emissions and environmental groups have targeted the elimination of leaded aviation fuel.
"It's important for Congress to have the discussion on funding FAA programs, and we at EAA and other GA groups continue to raise concerns with the disproportionate effect of sequestration cuts on GA compared to other segments of civil aviation," Macnair said. "This is not an either/or proposition and the reality is far more nuanced than a simple sound bite. The future of control towers is very important, but must also be weighed against potential unintended impact on other programs that are vital to GA's future."