San Carlos Federal Contract Tower (FCT) Information

San Carlos Airport’s Federal Contract Tower (FCT) is run by Serco, a private company contracted by the FAA. For several years, Serco has been unable to adequately staff the tower. While we understand the controllers who work at the tower are working long hours to provide as much service as they can, the staffing shortage has resulted in chronic issues over the last few years. Pilots who have flown at San Carlos Airport (SQL) have experienced degraded service, lengthy delays, and unplanned closures. If you experience any of these, please file the two reports listed below.

Unfortunately, the FAA does not claim responsibility for the operations at SQL FCT and instead directs responsibility toward Serco. 

The issues across the FCT program are not isolated to SQL. Many other local FCTs are operating at limited hours with critically low staffing. The FAA has been aware of these issues since at least 1998 and has been criticized by the Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for lack of operational and financial oversight of the FCT program. The OIG report numbers include AV-1998-147, CC-2012-023, AV-2013-009, and AV2021035. You can view the contents of these reports on OIG’s website. There are repeated mentions of lack of oversight from the FAA, as well as continuing to pay contractors the full contractual amounts even when service isn’t provided. 

Additionally, the FAA and OIG use flawed metrics when assessing the safety of the FCT program. They focus on the number of accidents, safety reporting from the tower staff, and ongoing ATC-0 events. In FAA-staffed towers, air traffic controllers are consistently supervised during their operational duties, with at least three or more controllers present in the tower cab simultaneously. This scenario is not the case in contract towers, where a single controller is typically responsible for all tower operations, including supervising themselves. With no one else present to monitor and report on any mistakes or unsafe situations caused by contract tower controllers, the number of safety reports from these towers is often lower. These numbers do not indicate superior—or even basic levels of—safety at contract towers, but rather a lack of oversight.

The FAA has no intention of addressing the issue. Congressional intervention is needed. We need your help contacting elected officials with the authority to make necessary, immediate changes. Below are templates for letters that you can send to the FAA and Congressional officials. You can copy the letters or modify them as you wish.

Congressional Contact Information

Rep. Kevin Mullin
(202) 225-3531

House Aviation Subcommittee
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
(202) 226-3220

Senate Aviation Subcommittee
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation
(202) 224-0411

FAA Contact Information

Timothy Arel
COO, FAA Air Traffic Organization

Tonya Patterson
FAA Western Service Area Director of Operations

Robin Greisen
Manager, FAA Oakland Air Traffic District

Tony Schneider
Executive Director, FAA Air Traffic Safety Oversight