Contract Towers Continue To Provide Cost-Effective and Safe Air Traffic Services, but Improved Oversight of the Program Is Needed
On November 5, 2012, we issued a report on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) oversight of the Federal Contract Tower Program. Established in 1982, the Program currently oversees 250 contract towers providing low-cost air traffic control services to airports nationwide.
We found that contract towers continue to provide air traffic control services at a lower cost than similar FAA towers. On average, a contract tower cost about $1.5 million less to operate than a comparable FAA tower, mainly due to lower staffing and salary levels. In addition, contract towers had a lower number and rate of safety incidents compared to similar FAA towers, and users remain strongly supportive of the Program. However, we identified opportunities for FAA to enhance its oversight of the Program, including strengthening its financial controls and implementing voluntary safety reporting systems at contract towers. FAA concurred with all three of our recommendations to improve the Agency’s oversight of the contractual and safety aspects of the Program.