Sinema Continues Efforts Ensuring Safety of Arizona Airspace

Mar 9, 2021

Sinema cosponsored bipartisan CONTRACT Act to boost air traffic control staffing

WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema backed the bipartisan CONTRACT Act—legislation boosting air traffic control staffing for Arizona airports, ensuring Arizona’s airspace remains safe and secure.

“Arizona’s safety and security depends in part on a well-trained air traffic control workforce. I’ll keep working across the aisle to support air traffic controllers and ensure our country’s airspace remains the safest in the world,” said Sinema, Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation.

“I am thankful for Senator Sinema’s strong support for the CONTRACT Act. This legislation is important in ensuring that Flagstaff’s Pulliam Airport and its contract tower can continue to utilize retired federal FAA tower employees to protect the safety of the skies over Flagstaff and the nation. I applaud her for co-sponsoring this important legislation,” said Paul Deasy, Mayor of Flagstaff, Arizona.

“NATCA is proud to represent air traffic controllers at 115 of our nation’s 256 Federal Contract Towers, including two of the six contract towers in Arizona. The CONTRACT Act would enhance aviation safety by allowing controllers who retire from federal service to work as controllers at smaller contract tower airports without their federal annuity supplement being reduced or eliminated entirely,” said NATCA President Paul Rinaldi.

“This would allow these experienced controllers to continue to serve as aviation safety professionals and help keep the National Airspace System operating safely,” said David Skarphol, an air traffic controller at Phoenix Terminal Radar Approach Control and NATCA’s Western Pacific Region Legislative Representative.

As Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations, and Innovation, Sinema leads bipartisan efforts on key issues for Arizona, including supporting Arizona’s growing aviation industry, which supports thousands of Arizona jobs.

The Sinema-backed CONTRACT Act improves air traffic control staffing at Arizona airports with contract towers. The bill makes it easier for contract towers to hire experienced FAA air traffic controllers. Contract towers are air traffic control towers staffed by employees of private companies rather than by FAA employees, and are an important part of our national air traffic control system—serving communities through a proven public-private partnership that increases safety and improves air traffic control services, while lowering the cost to the federal government. Arizona has seven contract towers that would benefit from this legislation in Chandler, Flagstaff-Pulliam, Glendale, Goodyear, Laughlin/Bullhead International, Phoenix Mesa Gateway, and Ryan Field.

Last Congress, Sinema helped pass the CONTRACT Act out of the Commerce Committee with bipartisan support. Sinema’s Air Traffic Control Hiring Reform Act, which accelerates air traffic control hiring and gives priority to veterans and graduates of certain specialized schools, such as ASU Polytechnic and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, also cleared the Commerce Committee.