Congressman Faleomavaega Eni announced today that he was successful in his efforts to include $2 million for the construction of a temporary air traffic control tower for Pago Pago International Airport, in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill which will receive final Congressional passage next week after further provisions are considered.
“I am pleased that I was able to get this money for a temporary air traffic control tower for our airport, since the situation was almost desperate. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made a ruling early this year to close the tower at Tafuna Airport because the cost-ratio did not justify the construction of a new tower,” Faleomavaega said. “I find it absolutly ludicrous that the FAA would recommend closure of the tower and that we would have to depend on advisories from Faleolo International Airport some 80 miles away for all incoming and outgoing flight at Tafuna.”
“What I refuse to see happen is a repeat of the Pan Am crash in the early ‘70’s, where some 97 passengers perished when the aircraft short-landed at Tafuna airport because of pilot error. Based on the reports of the incident, I believe that if there had been a proper control tower then to advise and inform the pilot in his visual landing during the rainstorm that fatal night, the tragedy could have been avoided,” Faleomavaega insisted.
“There is no way I am going to accept that risk again and allow history to repeat itself at our airport, where planes would make landings and takeoffs in the worst kind of weather while pilots would depend on advisories from an air traffic controller 80 miles away. I fail to see the rationale of the FAA’s recommendation as one could not equate money for human safety or lives,” the Congressman said.
“In requesting this funding, I am grateful for the assistance and support given to me by Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Senior Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Congressman Don Young of Alaska, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee. Their support is just one more example of bi-partisan efforts in working together to get things done at the Capitol. Senator Inouye and I are both Democrats, but vital support was given by Congressman Young and other republican members on his committee. As a result, the $2 million request was rolled into the Omnibus Bill that is expected to be finalized next week,” Faleomavaega pointed out.
“I am also thankful for the guidance and advice from Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, and especially in understanding our unique situation here in the territory. While the FAA claims that flights on a daily and monthly basis could not justify the construction of a multi-million dollar permanent control tower, the fact that supporting our efforts in obtaining funding for a temporary tower justifies the rationale of our position,” Faleomavaega said.
“Last but not least, I would also like to thank orator and local FAA Station Manager Leaoina Smitty Lutu and his staff for the assistance in providing me with full information and updates on the situation, and also the Department of Port Administration Airport Division for their concerns and input in this issue. The present tower, or whatever is left of it, was condemned for safety reasons after repeated damages from hurricanes in the past three decades. The new temporary tower can replace the battered one for now until we can secure funding for a permanent tower in the future,” Faleomavaega concluded.