FAA Flight Plan still focuses on user fees

The FAA’s recently released Flight Plan 2006-2010, the agency’s strategic planning and goal-setting document, is still focused on user fees to take care of its claims of a funding crisis.

“There is a fundamental disagreement between the FAA and AOPA about whether the aviation trust fund is running out of money,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “Even the White House Office of Management and Budget is forecasting continued growth in the fund, and the fiscal year 2005 numbers bear this out.”

FAA officials, however, contend that a “significant gap exists between the tax receipts and what it costs to run the system.

“What the FAA needs is a stable funding stream where the cost for a service is reflected in what’s charged for the service.”

To many observers, that sounds very much like a plea for user fees, even though Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta told pilots at last month’s AOPA Expo that “from my perspective, the solution will not be user fees. The fuel tax is the best way to finance the needs of aviation.”

GA pilots shouldn’t stop their vigilance against user fees, said Andy Cebula, AOPA’s senior vice president of government and technical affairs and the association’s lead lobbyist. “Let me tell you, words like ‘from my perspective’ are code words in Washington,” he said. “The pressure for user fees for everyone from within the administration and from the airlines is intense.”

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