WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have reintroduced the Continuity for Operators with Necessary Training Required for ATC Contract Towers (CONTRACT) Act of 2021 to allow retired FAA controllers to work at federal contract towers without facing a financial penalty. Reps. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) and Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) re-introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Currently, there are 257 air traffic control facilities participating in the FAA’s Federal Contract Tower Program. 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.
Federal contract towers face a unique hurdle 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.
“Regional economies across Kansas rely on the aviation industry and our state’s eight contract towers, which play an important role in making certain air travel is safe,” said Sen. Moran. “This legislation removes an unnecessary hiring barrier and financial disincentive for air traffic controllers who have retired from the FAA, providing a simple and sensible solution to ensuring we have highly-skilled and experienced controllers working at federal contract towers and keeping skies safe across the country.”
“Fully-staffed contract air traffic control towers are vital to maintaining the safety of our national airspace system—and former FAA controllers should be able to work in contract towers without facing a financial penalty,” said Sen. Inhofe. “We should be growing our aviation workforce, not thwarting it. With the introduction of the CONTRACT Act, we have the opportunity to ensure these important facilities, including the six contract towers in my state of Oklahoma, are fully-staffed with the most qualified, trained individuals available.”
“Contract air traffic control towers are an essential part of ensuring safe air travel in Washington state and across our country,” said Sen. Murray. “We need to make sure they are staffed with the most qualified individuals to help keep our skies safe, which is why I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this commonsense bill to remove unnecessary staffing barriers and help our air traffic control towers in Spokane and across Washington state attract the most experienced controllers.”
“Ventura County airports play a key role in our region’s economy. Keeping all of our air traffic control towers open and fully staffed is critical for safety and helps our airports serve businesses and aviation enthusiasts in our region,” said Rep. Brownley. “This bill will ensure that FAA air traffic controllers, who choose to continue to work after the mandatory FAA retirement age of 56, can help us meet staffing needs at contract towers without losing their hard-earned retirement benefits. I want to thank Congressman Davis for co-authoring this important bill, and I look forward to working with our Senate colleagues, including Senators Jim Inhofe, Jerry Moran, and Patty Murray, to move the bill through the legislative process.”
“Small airports across the nation use contract towers to keep our airways safe, but are facing difficulties recruiting and retaining air traffic controllers,” said Rep. Davis. “This legislation will address this problem by allowing retired controllers to receive their full Social Security annuity payment while working at contract towers. Ensuring contract towers are adequately staffed is critical to their ability to maintain safety and continue operations. Additionally, these rural and suburban airports are often integral parts of the local economy and any reduction in controller capacity could have a negative economic impact.”