Even after the Congress enacted legislation that enabled the FAA to fully fund air traffic services, the agency is asking the Experimental Aircraft Association to cover some of the costs for its AirVenture operations, including air traffic controllers’ travel, per diems, and overtime, which had traditionally been covered by the FAA.
“This issue is significantly bigger than AirVenture,” said EAA Chairman Jack J. Pelton. “We’ll have full air traffic staffing and operations at Oshkosh and are well-prepared for our event. Unfortunately this is coming at a great cost to EAA.
“The larger issue, however, is about the unknown and alarming new direction the FAA is taking in charging for an equivalent level of safety that has previously been provided,” he continued. “If the FAA asks for reimbursement on certain AirVenture operations for which it has always budgeted, where else could the agency unilaterally impose assessments, fees, and other costs on GA? It’s a frightening thought.”
EAA and other aviation organizations agree that GA should continue to contribute its fair share to FAA and national airspace operations through the current aviation fuel tax. EAA officials said they will, however, “vigorously oppose efforts to burden aviators with costs for which the FAA already receives funding and has budgeted as part of its stated mission of providing a safe, efficient national airspace system.”
Echoing the EAA’s comments are officials with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), who said this is akin to double taxation.
“This is extremely troubling news,” said Craig Fuller, AOPA president and CEO. “We’ve warned that the Obama administration wants to hit general aviation with user fees, and that’s exactly what it’s doing to the EAA and AirVenture. To depart from previous practice suggests that the FAA has entered a new, pay-as-you-go era with little regard for safety. General aviation already pays for FAA services through substantial fuel taxes. These user fees — there is no other word for them — are a double taxation.”
“These sorts of user fees will stymie a vibrant, innovative general aviation industry that is just starting to realize economic recovery,” Fuller said. “This administration seems to feel that it can tax and impose additional fees without consequence. But these tactics will ground dozens of pilots and planes, eliminate jobs and diminish GA’s contribution to our economy.”
User fees have again been included in the Obama administration’s latest proposed annual budget, and AOPA, along with other GA alphabet groups, are already working to defeat that proposal.
A bipartisan group of 223 members of Congress recently signed a letter to the president opposing such fees. Congress has repeatedly defeated previous user fee proposals.