Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) and Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced the Continuity for Operators with Necessary Training Required for ATC Contract Towers (CONTRACT) Act of 2019. This legislation would eliminate financial disincentives that make it hard for federal contract towers to recruit and hire trained, well-qualified, retired FAA 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 Congresswoman 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 (R-Okla.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), to move the bill through the legislative process.”
“Many of our smaller airports across the country operate using contract towers, but current restrictions under the law are discouraging air traffic controllers from working in our rural areas,” said Congressman Davis. “This bill will help our contract towers recruit and retain controllers by allowing federal controllers to continue receiving their Social Security annuity payment while working at contract towers. Ensuring contract towers are properly staffed is critical to safety and the local economies these airports serve.”
There are currently 256 air traffic control facilities participating in the FAA’s Federal Contract Tower Program. However, these towers often find it difficult to hire trained and well-qualified retired FAA controllers. FAA air traffic controllers are required by law to retire at 56 years of age, but under current law will lose a portion of their Social Security benefits if they continue to work. The CONTRACT Act will eliminate this penalty for those who choose to work as controllers at federal contract towers. These experienced FAA employees should have the opportunity to use their skills at a federal contract tower without facing a financial penalty. Congress has provided a similar exemption to retired federal controllers who become air traffic control instructors.
This legislation is supported by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), U.S. Contract Tower Association (USCTA), and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA).