Thursday, April 19, 2007

Airline insider tells a different tale.

The support from the airlines for the FAA's proposed funding reauthorization scheme has always been suspect, smelling much like a deal between a couple of old cronies made in the secrecy of the cloak room at their Country Club, when they thought nobody else was looking.

When the air carriers jumped in bed with the administration so quickly and so fully in their attempt to screw GA to the floor, it reaked so bad that every pilot in the land that doesn't board their flying machine through a jetway took off their gloves and declared war on Washington's elite. It has always been a slippery slope that the airline's were trying to climb, and now it appears there may be cracks in the airline's strategery. The respected publication The Hill is now reporting that an anonymous industry source has told them this:
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) erred when it made a controversial proposal to increase taxes on small aircraft to pay for a modernized air-traffic control system, a representative of the commercial airline industry told The Hill. Pointing to an outcry from the general aviation community – which last week announced it was forming a new coalition to fight the FAA plan – the commercial aviation source who spoke with The Hill said he expected propeller and piston-engine planes to be excluded from any tax increases approved by Congress in FAA reauthorization legislation.
Whoa.

Even if this is an anonymous deep throat from the airline world, at least he/she is saying the right things...for our side of this catfight. The article quoted the source as suggesting that while GA piston planes with propellers might dodge this threat, the same does not apply to turbine power aircraft:
[He] suggested this change would undermine the argument that small communities would be unfairly impacted by a tax shift, and would put a greater emphasis on increasing the cost burden for the air-traffic control system on corporate jets, a fast-growing segment of the aviation industry. The commercial aviation source insisted there is traction in Congress for arguments that corporate jets should pay more of the system’s costs. “The piston thing is not going to happen” the source said. “I do think there’s significant traction on the whole issue of corporate aircraft.”
So how does that make you feel? I can hear a few of you saying that all those fatcats flying bizjets can afford a few user fees, and can absorb half a buck a gallon more in fuel taxes. That is just nuts, and here's why (my .02 cents worth):
There is a world of difference between a King Air C90, a Pilatus PC-12 or TBM 850 and the larger Gulfstreams, Falcons and Citations capable of flying across oceans. Maybe the cutoff for who pays the extra taxes and user fees ought to be determined by your destination airport. The whole POINT of owning a Pilatus is to drop into 3,000-foot runways at rural airports just five minutes from the contruction site or afternoon meeting. Many of these flights are flown VFR, and there is no difference between a PC-12 landing at the little field at the edge of town, and a Cessna 150 doing likewise. But when a GV needs to thread the needle through congested class bravo airspace and land at our larger hub airports, then maybe they ought to be considered to be flying in the same world as the big iron of the airlines.
Bottom line: Nobody should have to pay a dime in user fees or more fuel taxes if the airlines are exempt from any of it, because if they are exempt, then that ought to be proof positive that this FAA scheme was really just a back door deal to punish GA while padding the pockets of the airlines.