User fees redux?

Another indication that communications in the nation’s capital should be improved is the Department of Transportation’s proposed five-year plan in which the agency sets out its goals through 2015. General aviation is all but forgotten, except for pushing again the idea that the current funding of the FAA should be something other than fuel taxes.

The plan states: “The administration believes that FAA should move toward a model whereby the agency’s funding is related to its costs, the financing burden is distributed more equitably, and funds are used to pay directly for services the users need.”

This sounds like user fees, despite the fact that the House of Representatives has said “NO” to those.

In another section of the plan, there is a veiled suggestion about crowded airports that might affect general aviation. Citing a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that NextGen “is an enormously complicated undertaking due to technological complexities, numerous stakeholders, and broad scope of the effort,” the DOT plan says a challenge is reconfiguring runways and airspace to meet the needs of NextGen. As I have been saying for months, NextGen will be effective in congested areas only if there are more runways or fewer aircraft.

In its five-year plan DOT wants to cut the general aviation fatal accident rate by 10%. The plan had little more than this to say about general aviation.

Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.

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