Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Republican Chairman Don Young of the House Transportation Committee and Congressman Nick Rahall, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Resources, have signed on to a letter with him to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, the Honorable Norm Mineta, urging the Department of Transportation (DOT)’s support of a temporary air traffic control tower in American Samoa.
“I am pleased that Senator Inouye, Chairman Young, and Congressman Rahall agreed to sign my letter to Secretary Mineta requesting his support and assistance on a matter regarding American Samoa’s need for a temporary air traffic control tower,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“In our letter dated September 16, 2004, we explained that the existing Pago Pago (PPG) air traffic control tower was established in America Samoa in the early 1970s. The tower is currently located on top of the airport fire station, which is owned by the American Samoa Government (ASG). The fire station has been structurally condemned and a new facility is under construction. By January 2005, the tower will be demolished.”
“In early 2001, the FAA was informed of this situation. For three years, or from 2001 to present, the FAA debated about whether or not it would build a permanent tower at a cost of $13 million to replace PPG’s existing tower. At the same time, the FAA made plans to establish a temporary tower at a cost of $2 million until a decision could be made about whether or not to establish the permanent tower. The FAA set-aside $800,000 and sent a tower cab to American Samoa. Since that time the tower cab has deteriorated and was further destroyed in a recent cyclone. The FAA has now determined that it will not construct a permanent tower or a temporary tower and is recommending that American Samoa rely on advisory statements from the Independent State of Samoa,” the Congressman said.
“In 1974,” he continued, “at a time when American Samoa relied on advisory statements, a Pan Am flight crashed killing 97 people. However, American Samoa has not had any plane crashes since the construction and use of the existing air traffic control tower and in order to help maintain that safety record, Senator Inouye, Chairman Young, and Congressman Rahall have joined with me in respectfully requesting the Secretary of Transportation to support the construction of a temporary tower, which we understand has an operational life expectancy of between 10-12 years.”
“As we agree, this would be a preferable option as opposed to relying on advisory statements from foreign countries and we are now awaiting word from Secretary Mineta regarding this important aviation safety matter. Again, American Samoa’s sons and daughters fight and die for this nation and, while I remain hopeful that the FAA will work with us to make sure that the people of American Samoa are treated fairly and that our safety is taken seriously, I will not rest until this matter is favorably resolved,” the Congressman concluded.