US FAA released (27-Mar-2013) a guidance on the closure of the airport contract air traffic control towers. From 07-Apr-2013, the FAA will begin to cease funding for 149 contract control towers that did not meet the traffic or 'national interest' screening criteria, in three phases. Funding will cease for 24 contract towers on 07-Apr-2013, followed by another 46 contract towers on 21-Apr-2013, and the remaining 79 contract towers on 05-May-2013. The FAA stated it regrets the need to cease FAA funding of these towers and has worked to ensure that the airport environment remains safe as the transition is made. Details of the guidance include:
Facilities and equipment:
- Airport operators may may choose to operate as a non-towered airport or to continue to provide tower services as a non-Federal control tower. The decision will most likely affect what happens with the existing tower structure and the equipment inside. The FAA is prepared to discuss continued use of buildings and equipment with airports that desire to continue providing tower services. The FAA will also discuss the availability of reimbursable agreements where the airport can reimburse the FAA to provide other services. The FAA will not immediately begin removing equipment and terminating local service agreements, with up to 90 days after the contract tower funding ceases before the FAA begins disconnecting and removing equipment. FAA owned and maintained equipment that remains with the tower after becoming a non-federal tower will continue to be owned and maintained by the FAA, subject to future discussions and possible agreement with the airport.
- As the FAA terminates its contracts for air traffic advisory services, the affected companies will determine the status of their employees. If the FAA has its own employees housed at these locations, then the necessary agreements will be made with airports to continue housing them or they will be relocated.
- Frequencies: Closure of the tower does not inhibit the availability of a common traffic frequency, used by pilots to operate at non-towered airports. FAA will work with airports to ensure a common traffic frequency is available, along with any other communications capabilities that may be necessary;
- Pilot-activated Lights: In many instances, airports already have pilot-controlled lighting available since the vast majority of contract control towers close overnight. Airports can work to explore federal funding possibilities, through the Airport Improvement Programme (AIP), for pilot controlled lighting capabilities;
- Weather observation: Airports may choose to acquire Contract Weather Observers or use automated weather reporting systems if they are available. The availability of weather information is a critical requirement for air carrier operations to arrive/depart at the
airport. The FAA will work with airports, through reimbursable agreements, to ensure the desired level of weather reporting capabilities is available;
- Diversions: Non-towered airports may be a diversion location for aircraft unable to land at their primary destination. Air carriers and private operators alike must abide by requirements to operate at these locations. Many air carriers operate at non-towered airports today and use non-towered airports as diversion airports;
- Modifications to Standards: Some airports may have approved Modifications to Standards that use an operating control tower as mitigation. Airports with these conditions are being identified by the FAA on a case-by-case basis for the potential effects on the Modification to Standard;
- Airports must ensure that airfield controls currently located in the tower continue to be accessible or are relocated to ensure continued operations. Coordination should occur with the FAA and the current tower personnel to ensure any changes are made by the announced closure date, or later if agreed to by all parties.
- Airports must identify to the FAA who will control the airport diagram.
- As contract towers cease operations, they will transfer the appropriate monitoring and control responsibilities to the AOCC Maintenance Control Centre. [more - original PR]