Obama administration responds to user fee petition

A petition to take user fees off the table garnered more than 8,900 signatures — many from general aviation pilots — but the result wasn’t what we hoped for. Instead, the response from Dana Hyde, Associate Director for General Government Programs, Office of Management and Budget, is an essay titled “Why We Need Aviation User Fees.”

It reads: “Thank you for signing the petition “Take Aviation User Fees Off the Table.” We appreciate your participation in the We the People platform on WhiteHouse.gov and your concerns about user fees in a challenging economy.

“In a challenging budget environment, the Obama Administration believes it’s essential that those who benefit from our world-class aviation system help pay for its ongoing operation. And we want to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share. For example, under current law, a large commercial aircraft flying from Los Angeles to San Francisco pays between 21 and 33 times the fuel taxes paid by a corporate jet flying the same route and using the same FAA air traffic services. This is why the Administration proposed to establish a new surcharge for air traffic services.

“The proposed $100 per flight fee would generate an estimated $11 billion over 10 years, reducing the deficit and more equitably sharing the cost of air traffic services across the aviation user community. All piston aircraft, military aircraft, public aircraft, air ambulances, aircraft operating outside of controlled airspace, and Canada-to-Canada flights would be exempted.

“We appreciate your petition’s acknowledgment that there needs to be an increased user contribution to aviation system funding in the current fiscal climate, and we recognize that some would prefer to raise the tax rate on aviation fuel. At the same time, we have concluded that a $100 per flight user fee is an equitable way for those who benefit to bear the cost of this essential service.

“As we work to get our Nation back on a sustainable fiscal path, the Administration is making tough choices across the Federal budget and asking everyone to do their fair share. We recognize these shared sacrifices are not easy, but together with investments in our economic growth and job creation, they will make us stronger and more competitive for the future. We look forward to working collaboratively with the Congress and the aviation stakeholder community on this issue, and thank you again for your constructive input.”

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  1. JonTX says

    I think a lot of pilots instinctively reject this because they know in their gut it’s a slippery slope. It’s just taxes for “them” at first and pretty soon it’s more taxes for everybody.

    How about we charge per pax and see how the airlines like that?

  2. Val says

    The icing on the cake will be when the FAR’s are updated to make the PIC responsible for ensuring that the fee is actually paid.

  3. Flybum says

    Obama will lose the vote of every pilot in the U.S. on this one.  Airlines benefit far more than GA aircraft do from the services provided by the government.  Private aircraft carry one or two people, airliners carry hundreds.  Private aircraft would prefer not to operate in controlled airspace but must in many instances.  There are a lot of people like me that cannot afford to do much flying now because of the cost of the aircraft, gasoline, maintenance and insurance.  If I have to pay $100 per flight, count me out.  I will buy a nice ski boat, and kiss the FAA goodbye.  No choice.  I also will vote against every politician who advocates this outrageous fee. 

  4. pilotman says

    Mike, Thanks for agreeing that your mission is to raise other peoples costs. We will see how it plays out, but I do not believe user fees will be enacted.

    BTW, I do not listen to Rush. 

    Please remember that ” Reasonable people can disagree”. I hope you have success in your business, as there are many challenges in today’s environment.

    Respectfully- Pilotman    

  5. pilotman says

    I am tired of arguing with IDtenT’s.  Here’s the bottom line :  YOU DON’T WANT TO PAY MORE TAXES OR FEES, BUT YOU WANT OTHERS TO.

    • Mike H says


      Those “others” that I want to pay more are those people not paying their, easily quantifiable, fair share of the system.  In my experience and professional opinion, it is the large corporate jet operators operating under Part 91.  

  6. pilotman says

    It’s obvious that all you Obama-lovers out there are jealous of those who have worked hard enough to be able to afford a turbine airplane, and want anyone who has to be penalized. What I have repeatedly said is that if you want a fee,make it fair and charge everybody who uses the system. And, Mike, not once have I said I want to pay less than I am now paying. I am saying increase the existing fuel tax so that everybody who flies pays a little more.  I have yet to hear you liberals say why that isn’t fair.

    As far as other presidents flying  AF1, they did not continually bash general aviation while doing so. 

    One last question-  Have you ever gotten a pay check from a poor person?  People who work long hours, take risks, and employ workers are not bad people.

    • Mike H says

      Calling me, and others that share my belief system, jealous is absolutely ludicrous and just another example of your short sighted and generally greedy political and personal viewpoint.  

      In short, as “StopTheWhining” pointed out, everything you say is regurgitated Limbaugh talking points and you have no foundation for your argument when you quote that loud mouthed buffoon.  

      I work hard every day.  I have started three successful companies (two that are GA specific businesses) and own and operate my own single engine aircraft.  If it was a corporate jet… I would expect to pay more than my small single engine flying friends that use much less of the system.   

      I’ll just re-post what I said before to counter your “I am saying increase the existing fuel tax so that everybody who flies pays a little more.  I have yet to hear you liberals say why that isn’t fair.”

      If you take your blinders off you would have seen a liberal saying why it isn’t fair.

      From my previous post:  

      And now… the “fairness” argument.  Is it fair that corporate jet operators pay 30 times less than commercial operators?  No, absolutely not.  I agree with the airlines on this.  Would it be fair for a small single-engine to pay 30 times less than a corporate jet operator?  Maybe… and for the following reasons.Piston aircraft are smaller, they use less fuel, require smaller parking spaces, weigh less and have minimal negative impacts on airport pavement surfaces, they typically fly in uncontrolled space and do not utilize ATC as often, and lastly, they are generally associated with recreational flyers on a local sortie. 

      Now, again, I DO NOT believe everyone needs to pay a little more!!!  I am saying that the corporate jet operators, hiding under the GA umbrella, are actually using more of the system and landing heavier aircraft and stressing the pavement and overall system as a whole.  As such, they ought to pay more!!!!    

      I’m done…

      • Mike H says

        Also, if you make EVERYONE pay more you will undoubtedly see GA crumble.  Why not get those that have reaped the benefits and are able to pay more to actually pay a little more?

        Remember getting your private pilots license?  I was young and broke when I got mine and man was it expensive!  Applying an across the board fuel tax will increase the hourly rate of rental aircraft thus resulting in less people renting aircraft, the reduced aircraft rental will require the CFI to increase his hourly rate ultimately making it that much harder for young entrepreneurs and aspiring aviation professionals to obtain the PPL.

        Now I am done!  Ha

    • gbin says

      So now anyone who doesn’t write like an Obama-hater must be an Obama-lover?  Good grief!

      I haven’t said anything for or against the proposed user fee for jet aircraft, but only pointed out that folks should focus on real rather than imagined issues, and not deliberately mix the two to try to scare people.  Fairness can’t exist without honesty.

  7. pilotman says

    Mike, the system is not severely underfunded.  It, like most gov’t programs is vastly “overspent”. There is no need for a new fee system and bureaucracy to collect it, but if you insist on being fair, as you say, simply put the fee on all who use it, no matter which type of plane is flown.  That way the fees wouldn’t have to be so high. If you are so insistent on being fair, why do you want a small percentage of fliers to pay a high fee, but the vast majority to pay nothing? The people who fly turbines already pay a lot more because their planes burn a lot more fuel. That is a choice they make.Most owners do not object to an increase in the tax on Avgas and jet fuel. That way everyone pays a little more. Is it not fair to pay more as you fly more?

    BTW, about 95% of my flights are in piston planes.       

    • Mike H says

      “Overspent” as you put it, is a direct result of being underfunded.  Have you followed the debate for FAA and aviation infrastructure funding in the House Transportation Aviation Sub-Committee?  We are not currently able to fund the AIP and the infrastructure projects necessary to accommodate existing user demand as it is simply because of political ideologies and some users (see corporate “fat cats”) not paying their fair share.   

      Now, I fear that unless we increase revenues from other “beurocratic” sources and invest in infrastructure, our existing revenue stream will not meet the demands of the flying public in the future.  Mostly because fuel is too expensive (and will continue to rise) which equals less flying.  Also, as I mentioned before, technological advances will minimize the amount we can collect from a fuel tax thus further decreasing our revenue stream for aviation infrastructure.  

      I closely follow the funding for airport and aviation infrastructure projects and am currently waiting on a federal grant to fund a project my own small business has secured.  I will steadfastly argue that polarizing ideological political decisions like yours are the resultant instability and the main cause of an underfunded aviation system.  

      And now… the “fairness” argument.  Is it fair that corporate jet operators pay 30 times less than commercial operators?  No, absolutely not.  I agree with the airlines on this.  Would it be fair for a small single-engine to pay 30 times less than a corporate jet operator?  Maybe… and for the following reasons.

      Piston aircraft are smaller, they use less fuel, require less parking space, weigh less and have minimal negative impacts on airport pavement surfaces, they typically fly in uncontrolled space and do not utilize ATC as often, and lastly, they are generally associated with recreational flyers on a local sortie.  

      With that in mind, why would an increased fuel tax be the way to go?  Then everyone has to pay more even though they are not using more of the system.  I say the people using most of the system ought to pay more.  A user fee is the way to do that.  

      I believe the current effort to reevaluate GA and the ensuing sub classifications will reveal the need to change our funding structure.  There is a stark contrast of GA and we need to define and fully understand it before making any rash decisions.



  8. pilotman says

    You seem to miss the point.  This is just another money grab by the administration which has done more , by far , to destroy general aviation than any in history. As Obama travels the world at taxpayer expense in the worlds most expensive private jet, he constantly bashes the “fat Cats in their corporate jets”.His proposal to levy a fee on turbines is just another example of the class warfare he is trying to use to get re-elected. If this tax gets imposed on turbines, it will only be a matter of time until it spreads to piston twins and singles. A pilot of a turbine talking to a controller usually takes less time than a pilot of piston plane because the turbine flies faster.

    Again, if you want to stop this ridiculous fee, contact your Senators and Reprsentatives. The GA community pays it’s  “fair share” through fuel taxes and other fees. We do not need another expesive bureaucracy to separate us from more money    

    • Mike H says

      You Sir, seem to be missing the point. I would argue that it is not the “point” you are missing but, in fact, the big picture! 

      Come out of your short sighted tunnel vision!

      The price of fuel and irrationality of financial markets has done more to destroy GA than any of the policies proposed by this White House or any prior.  

      Class warfare?  No, this proposal is a fair and balanced approach to partially funding an extremely underfunded system.  You (I am assuming you are person on the right) are the ones waging class warfare by demanding you pay less while using most of the system.  

      I would argue turbine corporate jets utilize more of the system and not because of speed of the aircraft.  Speed really has nothing to do with it. Just like you guys in the turbines, us guys in the pistons say hello and goodbye to controllers and look for traffic and weather advisories in the middle.  The difference is the actual use of the system.  Internal corporate policies usually require Part 91 operators to file IFR thus putting more “stress” or use on the system.  As a piston pilot with an IFR rating I rarely actually file IFR and typically am VFR while only speaking to controllers when I enter busy airspace.  As such, I think there should also be a fee for entering Class B and C airspace. 

      The potential for fees to spread to piston aircraft is a possibility.  But not as a “money-grab” as you described it.  I suspect that when the fees for small GA aircraft come we will have advanced hybrid and electric technologies allowing small GA aircraft to use less fuel.  Therefore, much like our currently underfunded highway system and the low fuel tax revenue generated by more efficient automobiles, we will have to impose new fees on users of the aviation system as the purchase of fuel shrinks and ultimately diminishes. 

    • gbin says

      Looks to me like you missed my two points, too, pilotman:

      1)  There’s a huge difference between real issues actually confronting general aviation and politically driven doomsday hypotheticals.

      2)  It’s dishonest for a person to mix the two in the hope of scaring others into adopting his/her view.

    • StopTheWhining says

      Pilotman, if you want people to take your writing seriously you may want to cut down on the Limbaugh talking points. To begin with, how do you want the president of the US to travel? In a Cessna 172? Is that how the previous president travelled when he wasn’t vacationing? While it would be great if this fee wasn’t needed, I frankly feel very limited sympathy for the people who have to pay it. Boo hoo, 100 bucks extra to travel in their fancy smancy bizjets. Soon they will have to travel like the rest of us. How much do you think it costs just to start up those vehicles? $1000? More? “…to destroy general aviation…blah, blah.” what a croc of cr@p. Who was it that practically demolished the freedom  enjoyed by GA by requiring all airports to be fenced in? If I recall correctly it happened long before Obama took office. It is so easy to forget history after inhaling all that thin air at 30000 ft, isn’t it? Othewise you’d probably remember this too: http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/2007-02-06-bush-aviation-usat_x.htm. When nothing is done about the deficit people whine. When something is done about the deficit people whine too. So please spare us the the emotionally charged drivel so the rest of us can engage in fact filled debate… And thank you Obama for sparing most of General Aviation from this fee. You have my vote!

  9. Mike H says

    It always amazes me how people (especially impulsive pilots like myself) fail to understand the details before signing a petition.  The White House proposal exempts the majority of pilots and airplanes from new fees and we should all embrace it.  In particular, the fee proposal exempts those aspiring pilots that can probably be categorized into the, dare I say it, 99%ers.  It clearly does so by exempting all piston aircraft!  Why would any sensible pilot flying his experimental, LSA, glider, Cessna 172, or Beech Baron object to this rule?  It does not affect them nor will it in the future.  

    If a fuel tax is in fact the better option, and it was the preferred direction, then we will all have to pay more as we all buy fuel… 

    I say we start a petition to insure no new fuel taxes and the GA User Fee (See: Corporate Jet User Fee) is instituted immediately!  

    Yes… I am a pilot and aviation professional and I am in the 99%.  I support this new fee and I suspect others do too. That is why only 9,000 of 600,000 US pilots signed this petition.  

  10. Chpilot says

    According to the info above, piston aircraft are exempt if outside of controlled airspace. Does that mean that if you climb over 1200 AGL it will cost you $100?

    • gbin says

      That’s not what it says.  Piston aircraft AND aircraft operating outside of controlled airspace would be exempt.

  11. Grapilot says

    gra  what a better way to kill an aviation dream than to make it so costly that no one would consider getting their pilot liscense or continue flying if you already have a licsense.There are other ways but it looks good in the eyes of the public to do something right or wrong.Since there are few of us flying they will pick on the minority because it is easy ,call your sen. and rep. and tell them exactly where your vote lies.

  12. pilotman says

    gbin, it wouldn’t take long for the Obama administration to determine that since piston planes actually fly slower than turbines, they talk to controllers longer, and therefore should pay the user fee. There is no such thing as a partial tax or temporary tax. If User fees get started with turbines they will soon be added to pistons. This another example where we don’t have an income problem- we have a spending problem 

    • gbin says

      Sorry, I’d rather spend my time and effort discussing/dealing with real issues actually confronting general aviation, not politically driven doomsday hypotheticals.  And in any event, I can’t help but view it as dishonest when people mix the two in the hope of scaring others into adopting their view.

  13. gbin says

    Did everyone who’s concerned about this possible user fee notice that the Obama administration’s response clearly stated that “All piston aircraft… would be exempted”?  So only pilots flying jet aircraft would be affected, and the great majority of general aviation pilots would not.

    • Bedfordwoundcare says

      Everyone seems to enjoy bashing this administration, so they did not see this exemption you rightly noticed.

  14. Lclement46 says

    It will do no good to send petitions to Obama’s henhmen. They know they are a lot smarter than we pilots.Contact your Senators and Representatives. That is the way to get this stopped. We don’t need to have Obama deciding what our “fair share” is. They never mention the fuel taxes and other fees we pay.  BTW, just because you don’t fly a turbine don’t think it won’t affect you. Once the tax starts it will spread like a plague to piston twins and then singles. 

  15. Rodney says

    I’m surprised only 8,900 people signed the petition out of around 600,000 pilots.
    All this is yet another fine decision lead by our wonderful One Big A** Mistake America. Doesn’t take much thought to realize taxing fuel is the most obvious way to fairly cover costs. Long flight = more ATC involvement = more fuel = more taxes paid.
    Also doesn’t take much to see fuel taxes is easy way to collect the fees while added no extra expenses to the collection process. How much of the $100 will go towards just the process of collecting it? How many flights will not do things that will lead to the fee that they wouldn’t have skipped otherwise?

  16. Jim says

    Absolutely no common sense.   A twenty minute flight could cost the same as a cross country flight.  That makes sense if you are in the government, I guess.  And what about the costs to collect this fee, and go after the “bad guys” who don’t pay?  Sounds like more of a way to bloat the government rather than raise fees.  Typically poor thought out plan.

  17. Anonymous says

    Does anyone  actually think the people calling the shots want to do anything other than put up obstacles to business?

    This is another incremental step to destroy business and our economy in the process.

    • Mjohn1988 says

      Seems like politics to me also. 11billion in ten years when you overspend by trillions. Pocket change. As usual it is political.

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