Safety, Cost, and Operational Metrics of the Federal Aviation Administration's Visual Flight Rule Towers
We issued a report on the metrics of FAA’s visual flight rule (VFR) towers. We conducted this analysis as part of our ongoing oversight responsibility of the Contract Tower Program and at the request of the President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, who asked us to review cost-related issues associated with the Contract Tower Program. Because safety is the primary mission of all air traffic control facilities, we expanded the scope of the analysis to also include metrics on the safety and operations of VFR contract towers and VFR towers staffed with FAA controllers.
In terms of safety of operations as measured by operational errors/deviations, both the contract and FAA-staffed VFR towers fell well below FAA’s FY 2002 overall average of 6.70 operational errors for every 1 million operations handled. Regarding costs, in FY 2002, the average cost to operate the 189 full-funded FAA contract VFR towers was $365,608, while the average cost to operate the 71 FAA-staffed VFR towers was $1,741,935.