Rep. Greg Stanton secured funds for airport infrastructure projects and control tower staffing improvements to improve capacity and safety at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, which cleared the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee earlier this week.

“Our airports are critical economic engines for the region, but they need federal support to keep up with record growth,” Stanton said. “This bill makes sure Arizona airports’ needs are met.”

Stanton, the only Arizonan on the committee, worked to increase funding for Airport Improvement Program grants to $4 billion annually, as well as include a provision to expand grant eligibility for terminal projects—a priority for Arizona airports. Airport infrastructure needs are projected to be more than $2.6 billion in the state over the next 5 years, and both Gateway and Sky Harbor have seen record passenger growth over the last year.

He also worked across party lines to create an FAA Contract Tower Conversion pilot program—a priority for Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. This would convert some high-activity contract air traffic control towers—staffed by private companies rather than the FAA employees—to FAA-staffed Visual Flight Rules towers, while allowing qualified contract air traffic controllers, of which over 70 percent are veterans, to remain at their current tower.

Gateway is the busiest contract tower in the nation and the 37th busiest tower in the country, but severe air traffic controller staffing shortages have forced operational changes at the airport. Stanton raised this point during a March 9 hearing, saying, “We recently opened a brand new $30 million air traffic control tower at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway. However, staffing shortages have reduced operations at the tower by four hours each day because contract employees have left, often with only a few weeks’ notice, to go work for the FAA.”

This has resulted in some flights landing without guidance from air traffic controllers—including general aviation, commercial and cargo flight. Congressman Andy Biggs, who represents parts of Mesa, shared his support of Stanton’s efforts, and the amendment was adopted unanimously.

Local mayors and airport officials praised Stanton’s advocacy:

"As Mesa continues to grow, so does the evolving aviation landscape at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport,” Mesa Mayor John Giles said. “We are incredibly thankful for Rep. Stanton’s leadership on the committee, and we look forward to continuing to advocate for this much needed pilot program.”

“Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport continues to be one of the fastest-growing airports in the nation and plays a crucial role in the Arizona economy. We are pleased to see a pilot program included in the FAA Reauthorization Bill that ensures this growth can continue and foster thousands of high-paying jobs for our residents,” Gilbert Mayor Brigette Peterson said. Peterson also serves as Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport Board Chair.

“At Phoenix Sky Harbor we have continued to see record-breaking passenger demand in 2023, making long-term, significant investments in our airports even more essential,” Chad Makovsky, Director of Aviation Services at the City of Phoenix Aviation Department, said. “The FAA reauthorization bill introduced in the House helps the entire aviation industry tackle the challenges of growth head on. We’re grateful for Rep. Stanton’s advocacy to increase the Airport Improvement Program funding for infrastructure to $4 billion, streamlining federal processes, and giving airport sponsors the real flexibility to use modern financing techniques and alternative delivery methods for construction. These changes will ensure that our nation’s airports are safe, well-maintained, and ready to serve future generations.”

“During the past two decades, aircraft activity and fleet mix has changed dramatically at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. The pilot program included in the FAA Reauthorization Bill provides a mechanism for eligible contract air traffic control towers to become FAA-operated air traffic control towers. This important provision ensures safety, efficiency, flexibility, and continuity as the airport industry continues to evolve,” J. Brian O'Neill A.A.E., Executive Director and CEO of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, said.

The bill now heads to the House floor for a vote.