How Bill Ending FAA Furloughs Affects Lynchburg Regional Airport

Campbell Co., VA- You may be wondering how the new bill ending the Federal Aviation Administration's furloughs for air traffic controllers will affect Lynchburg Regional Airport's air traffic control tower. Well, airport officials there are wondering the same thing.

That's because the bill leaves it up to the FAA to decide which employees will go back to work.

"We are taking this step because of the gross mismanagement of this important function for the safety of all Americans who fly," said Rep. Tom Latham, (R) Iowa.

"And it will be good news for America's traveling public if congress spares them the unnecessary delays that we've seen," said Jay Carney, the White House Spokesperson.

"This is a very promising development and we're very hopeful that the FAA will step forward and fund our tower with the funds that Congress has made available," said Mark Courtney, Lynchburg Regional Airport Director.

It's a promising development, but not quite a promise. Because of a change made in the bill before the House approved it, the FAA has a little more wiggle room.

"There had been specific language in the original Senate bill that directed the FAA to use those funds to keep the contract towers open," said Courtney.

As he explains, that's an important distinction.

"There are two types of employees that direct aircraft in the tower, in the air traffic control system. One is FAA employees, or FAA controllers, and the other are contract controllers."

The FAA outsources many air traffic controller positions in smaller airports. Lynchburg's control tower has been contracted through Midwest Air and Traffic Service since the mid 90's. That means the fate of their tower is still up in the air.

"It's uncertain how the FAA is going to impose that," said Courtney.

And since the furloughs are part of a ten year sequestration plan, Congress needs to come up with a long-term fix, or we could be in this same situation over and over again.

"We potentially could be facing this kind of thing longer than I want to think about," said Courtney.

The FAA's actions this year won't have an impact on Lynchburg Regional because Courtney has already sought financial help from the Virginia Aviation Board. But as we mentioned, it's up to Congress to find a more long-term solution.