AOPA sees déjà vu with user fees

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association President Craig Fuller is expressing disappointment that as part of his $3.8 trillion fiscal year 2013 budget, the president has included a $100 per-flight fee to fund the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control services.

“Regrettably, the Obama Administration continues to pursue user fees for private aircraft despite the fact that Congress has consistently and overwhelmingly rejected such fees on a bipartisan basis,” said Fuller. “Pay at the pump has worked since the dawn of powered flight and it still works. The last thing we need right now is to create an expensive new bureaucracy to fix what isn’t broken.”

The budget document said its user fee proposal exempts piston, military and public aircraft, along with air am­bulances, aircraft operating outside of controlled airspace, and Canada-to-Canada flights. But past experience has shown that such exemptions are likely to disappear once user fees are in place, AOPA officials note.

“AOPA finds little solace in the proposed exemption of piston aircraft. In nations where user fees have been introduced, the fees have grown,” said Fuller. “Once the collection system is imposed, new fees and fee increases bypass the congressional approval process that currently keeps excise taxes in check. And safety is compromised when a fee system discourages pilots from availing themselves of air traffic services.”

The budget also includes a plan to eliminate depreciation rules that serve as an incentive to purchase business aircraft.

“While claiming to desire economic growth and more domestic manufacturing jobs, the Obama Administration inexplicably singles out one of the most respected American industries and its highly skilled workers for punitive fees,” said Fuller.

At the same time, the President’s budget would reduce FAA funding to a level below that already approved by Congress in a reauthorization bill now awaiting the President’s signature.

“While the President claims he wants to improve and protect our transportation infrastructure and keep manufacturing jobs in America, he is proposing a budget that would directly undermine both those goals,” said Fuller. “This budget identifies the business use of private aircraft as the one asset for which operating fees should be required. This is an odd approach for policy makers who elect to fly in Boeing 747s for business and personal travel.”

AOPA officials said they are still analyzing the rest of the budget for other details affecting general aviation.

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  1. gbin says

    “But past experience has shown that such exemptions are likely to disappear once user fees are in place, AOPA officials note.”

    And exactly what past experience is that?  If Mr. Fuller (or any unnamed “AOPA officials” that might exist outside of this report) neglected to offer any actual support for this contention, perhaps the author could have bothered to ask for such or at least sought evidence of such herself, rather than simply repeating this doomsday hypothetical.  At least they didn’t simply pretend that the proposed user fee already applies to everyone – this time, anyway.

    The truth of the matter is that there is no real reason to believe that the current administration or any hereafter will try to impose the proposed $100 jet aircraft user fee on piston aircraft users.  Unfortunately, we’re prevented from having an HONEST discussion of the user fee in question because some people who are adamantly opposed to it insist upon trying to scare everyone that it already does or soon will apply to everyone in general aviation rather than only the small minority who are actually affected.

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