When you look up at the Kansas sky and see a plane do you ever think about where it’s from or where it’s heading or even how it got there?
In case you need a reminder, it takes more than just a pilot for a flight to take off without issue. Air traffic controllers help make that happen.
Right now federal law mandates FAA air traffic controllers must retire at 56 years of age. In case you were wondering, the Social Security minimum retirement age is 62. After air traffic controllers retire, some have opted to work within a network of 256 municipal and regional towers. They are penalized, however, through reduced annuity payments in their federal retirement packages.
These detail-oriented men and women don’t deserve to be penalized for wanting to work, especially if we as a nation feel the need to force them into early retirement.
A recently introduced bipartisan Senate bill, which aims at removing this financial disincentive, just makes sense.
U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.; and Patty Murray, D-Wash., were right to question this absurd glitch in the system. The legislation they introduced deserves our support as it works to remove red tape and allow these qualified people to use their expertise across the country. This bill, if signed into law, will keep all of us safer in the long run by putting well-trained and highly qualified professionals into roles they are best equipped to do.
Industry seems to agree, too. The U.S. Contract Tower Association, the American Association of Airport Executives and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association have endorsed the bill.
The impact can be seen right here in Kansas, which is home to eight of these towers located at airports in Salina, Garden City, Hutchinson, Manhattan, with two each in Topeka and Johnson County. These facilities contribute to the Kansas and economy and are a part of the state’s aviation legacy, so it also makes sense for a Kansan to help amend the policy.
This is just a first step, though. Remember that lesson from “Schoolhouse Rock!” If this bill passes, it will have to pass in the House of Representatives and then be signed by President Trump.
But this legislation is incredibly straightforward, aims to solve a problem and will keep hundreds safe long-term. Hopefully, it doesn’t sit too long on Capitol Hill.
Thank you, Senators, for working together on this effort.