8:44 AM

User fees: The Tug-o-War continues

The never-ending battle over who should pay for the costs of FAA Air Traffic Control entered yet another round last week, with ATA President/CEO James May and EAA vice president of industry and regulatory affairs, Earl Lawrence both launching barbs across bows.

In a speech to the National Aeronautic Association in Washington, D.C., May repeated the call for aviation user fees to bolster FAA's budget, a move that would offload millions of dollars of fees paid by the airlines onto general aviation users. He repeated the airlines' hard-line stand that business aviation and the emerging very light jet market are not paying their fair share of fees to operate the air traffic management system.

But EAA’s Lawrence wasn’t about to stand back and take it, returning this:

"While we are pleased the head of ATA agrees that GA pilots operating from uncontrolled fields, in VFR conditions, have minimum use of the system and should be exempt from any user fees, he is missing the major point. The air carriers are engaged in a coordinated effort to displace their economic problems and failing business model on everybody else. A main scapegoat is general aviation, which the carriers allege is not paying its fair share. In particular, the airlines are targeting business aviation and the promising new very light jet industry in an effort to increase the cost of operating those aircraft and reduce the competition they pose to the airlines' business traveler market."

It is no secret that revenues generated by the airline ticket tax have dropped about 20 percent because of market-driven low fares. And, as the airlines continue to sell tickets below the cost of providing service, the revenue into the trust fund continues to decline. With lower revenues flowing into the trust fund, combined with it being robbed for general operations by the Feds, the FAA will not be adequately funded in the future, this we know.

But user fees, however, will not the fix for this problem. Maybe someone should seriously ask the people in Washington who handle our money, WHERE THE HELL DOES ALL THE GASOLINE TAX MONEY GO???? I’ve always been told that money is supposed to go directly to FAA, but wait, I guess it can’t when it is being spent in Iraq.

Or, maybe someone decided to give Big Oil another phat tax break and let them keep the gazillions of dollars we pilots and the airlines pay in gas tax to further fatten their bloated coffers. Wouldn't surprise me – it was most likely stuffed into the Save the Whales Act of 2005 as a rider bill, one of those God-awful windfall breaks that our sneaky Congress likes to slide into completely unrelated bills in the middle of the night when they think nobody is watching. Newsflash to the clowns in D.C...we HAVE been watching, and this IS an election year.

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