U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) – member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation – joined U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in introducing S. 2898, the Continuity for Operators with Necessary Training Required for ATC Contract Towers (CONTRACT) Act of 2019. Today, there are 256 air traffic control facilities participating in the FAA’s Federal Contract Tower Program, including Garden City, Hutchinson, Manhattan, Salina and two locations in Olathe and Topeka. These contract towers are an important part of our national air traffic control system—serving communities through a proven public-private partnership that increases safety and improves air traffic control services, while lowering the cost to the federal government and the American taxpayer. “I’m proud to support our aviation industry by introducing legislation to remove an unnecessary barrier in the hiring pipeline for contract towers,” said Sen. Moran. “This sensible legislation would support contract towers across the nation, including the eight located in Kansas, by removing a financial disincentive which is preventing highly-skilled, experienced controllers from working at federal contract towers upon their retirement at the FAA.”
Federal contract towers face a unique hurtle to hiring trained and well-qualified retired FAA controllers. Because FAA air traffic controllers are one of several federal employee groups whose retirement is mandated at 56 years of age, retired FAA controllers are penalized for continuing to work as controllers at federal contract towers. These experienced retired FAA employees should have the opportunity to use their skills at a federal contract tower without facing a financial penalty. This legislation would eliminate that penalty.
Contract towers play a central role in managing the safety and efficiency of our nation’s complex airspace, supporting general aviation safety, the efficiency of large commercial airports, disaster relief and emergency medical operations, law enforcement and agriculture activities and businesses throughout the United States. In addition, many contract tower airports are located near or adjacent to military bases and manage a substantial number of military-related and national security operations, directly supporting the readiness and training of military units.