Congressmen: Not My Tower

Photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

A passenger walks on the platform of the Metrorail train next to the air-traffic control tower at Reagan National Airport in Washington.

Few issues in Congress inspire more bipartisan agreement than the notion that every air-traffic control tower is indispensable, regardless of the amount of work controllers have to do.

As Bloomberg News reported in November, Congress has for years pressured the Federal Aviation Administration to keep 24/7 staffing at towers that don’t have enough flight activity under agency guidelines to be open all hours.

One of those, in the West Virginia district of Rep. Nick Rahall, ranking Democrat on the House transportation committee, doesn’t have enough flights to have a tower open at all.

Now, with the FAA proposing to close or cut activity at more than 200 towers because of automatic budget cuts, the agency is being inundated anew with congressional messages of my-tower-is-too-important-to-touch.

At least 27 lawmakers have sent letters — some with multiple signers — to the agency.

Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, went a step further,  introducing an amendment to force the FAA to keep open 173 towers in small and medium-sized communities that are staffed by contractors. The spending bill is needed to keep the government open past March 27. Moran’s amendment would reallocate money within the FAA’s budget for those towers.

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