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Support Small Community Air Service Programs


We urge Congress to fully fund the Contract Tower, Essential Air Service (EAS), and Small Community Air Service Development Programs.  These programs enhance aviation safety and help small communities maintain and attract new commercial air service.  Congress also should examine the emerging pilot shortage issue, a problem of growing urgency that is impacting air service frequency and reliability at smaller communities across the country. 


Contract Tower Program:  Airports urge Congress to provide $149 million in dedicated funding for the Contract Tower Program, including $9.5 million for the Contract Tower Cost Share program.


  • Currently, 252 airports in 46 states participate in the Contract Tower Program, which nationwide handles approximately 28 percent of control tower operations. 


  • The safety, cost-effectiveness, and air traffic efficiency record of the program has been validated numerous times by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General and FAA safety audits.


Essential Air Service Program:  Airports urge Congress to fully fund the EAS program, which ensures that people who live in rural and less populated areas continue to have access to our national aviation system.


  • The EAS program has been the cornerstone of small community air service since the airline industry was deregulated in 1978.  Without this critical program, a large number of small communities simply would no longer have commercial air service.

  • The EAS program currently provides payments to air carriers that serve approximately 160 small communities.  EAS funding comes from a combination of revenue from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund and overflight fees collected by the FAA.

  • During consideration of the last FAA reauthorization bill and accompanying short-term extensions, Congress ushered in a number of EAS reforms and tightened eligibility requirements.  The FAA bill also capped the number of communities that are allowed to participate in the program.


Small Community Air Service Development Program:  Airports recommend that Congress continue to invest in the Small Community Air Service Development Program, which allows small communities to leverage federal and local resources to attract new commercial air service.


  • Since Congress created the Small Community Air Service Development program in 2000, it has helped numerous small communities around the country suffering from insufficient air service or unreasonably high fares.

  • According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, small communities that are selected to participate in the program use funding for a variety of purposes “including revenue guarantees to backstop new air service, air service development studies, start-up cost offsets to help attract new airlines, and marketing support to improve usage of the airport.”


  • The last FAA reauthorization bill authorized $6 million annually for the program.  Funding for the Small Community Air Service Development Program comes from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund as well as significant local contributions.


  • At a time when the pilot shortages have impacted an increasing number of small communities, it is imperative that Congress continue to invest a relatively small amount of money into a program that helps small communities secure commercial air service.

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