WASHINGTON, D.C. — Over the past few years, several reports have been written about suggestions, proposals, and announcements that new fees would be placed on aviation. Most recent of them refer to a fee of $100 per landing for jet aircraft introduced in the President’s budget for 2013.
Following published stories of these reports and rumors, a few people in general aviation have commented that the reporting has been incomplete because — they believed — it did not stress that the fee would apply only to jets, and therefore was not of concern to the average general aviation pilot. It is time to clarify the reporting and to show why those individuals and groups who see the whole aviation picture remain concerned.
Obama’s budget states that the $100 fee would exempt military aircraft, public aircraft, air ambulances, personal recreational piston aircraft, aircraft operating outside of controlled airspace, and Canada-to-Canada traffic — so why should the typical pilot of piston-powered aircraft be concerned?
None of the details have been written down or explained to find out what and who are actually intended as the targets for paying the proposed fee. In fact, the presidential announcements raise many questions.
For instance: If air ambulances are exempt, does that mean humanitarian flights in business jets carrying ill or injured persons are also exempt? Will Angel Flights be subject to a $100 charge when transporting injured individuals and their families, financially distressed persons needing transportation for medical reasons, other charitable flights, or will they be considered air ambulances and be exempt?
What are personal, recreational aircraft? Is the person who flies a Cessna 172 on a business flight subject to the $100 fee because at that moment the 172 is a business aircraft? If a jet aircraft takes off from an airport where there is no control tower, flies entirely VFR outside controlled airspace, and lands at another airport without a tower will it be exempt from paying the fee because it did not use the ATC system? (Not a likely flight, but possible.)
Will each training flight in a jet or turboprop be subject to the fee? Will flight following by air traffic control be eliminated for piston aircraft even though it uses ATC services? Or, will that particular use of air traffic services be subject to the fee? Will aircraft owners be billed or, if a personally owned turboprop is loaned or rented to another to fly on a trip, who will be billed, the owner or pilot?
Who will collect the money? Will there be someone at each airport to collect upon landing?
Another major concern is that once a fee is in place, future administrations and legislators can increase it and expand it to include more aircraft and more activities. History of Washington politics makes this a major issue. The income tax started out at an extremely low rate imposed on only a few individuals. Social Security has expanded to include dozens more cases than its original intent of aiding elderly persons, creating the need to increase contributions or severely curtail amounts paid. Sales taxes continue to increase. Many products once exempt are now included and there is clamoring for more and higher percentages.
None of the answers to these questions, and others, has been set in writing or defined. Nor have any specifics be made available. One thing the current $100 fee proposal in the 2013 budget does show is the lack of understanding the White House and presidential advisors have for what general aviation is and does. The implication is that every jet or turboprop aircraft is some toy for business fat cats and every other general aviation flight is for “personal recreational” flying.
Opposition to the proposed fee by members of Congress and legislators who are in the General Aviation Caucuses in the Senate and House indicate that general aviation is better understood in some areas.
Although a few in general aviation might not be concerned about the fee proposals and how the subject is reported, those who toil in the Washington area are not relaxing their efforts. There is too much at stake.
Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.
People who read this article also read articles on airparks, airshow, airshows, avgas, aviation fuel, aviation news, aircraft owner, avionics, buy a plane, FAA, fly-in, flying, general aviation, learn to fly, pilots, Light-Sport Aircraft, LSA, and Sport Pilot.