Senators John Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), both long-time supporters of general aviation, now say they are determined that GA will pay more in fees to support modernization of the air traffic control system.
During recent Senate Finance Committee hearings on the FAA reauthorization bill, Rockefeller threatened to restrict GA access to congested airspace if user fees are not imposed as part of the reauthorization package.
Rockefeller, falling into the jargon of the airlines, said that airline passengers should not subsidize corporate jet owners. “I don’t want to create a system where airline passengers subsidize corporate jets,” said Rockefeller, who is chairman of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee.
This from the senator who worked to attract bizjet builder Sino Swearingen and the now-defunct Tiger Aircraft to his key voter area of Martinsburg, W. Va. Indeed, even as he threatens fees damaging to corporate aviation, he lobbies for cash to bail out Sino Swearingen, whose major investor – the government of Taiwan – is trying to walk away from the deal and the voters Rockefeller represents.
Lott is behaving with hypocrisy at least equal to Rockefeller’s.
Although Mississippi is heavily dependent on general aviation jobs, and Trent Lott International Airport specializes in handling corporate traffic, Lott has been full of airline-speak in meetings and at news conferences where user fees are discussed.
“For all of you laying over in the weeds, saying ‘I’m gonna get my part no matter what and, by the way, the airlines are going to pay for it,’ forget it,” he stated colorfully, if not altogether grammatically. “We’re going to have a fair bill or no bill and I’m prepared to go the mat.”
Rockefeller and Lott aren’t the only members of the Senate Finance Committee who are siding with the airlines, against their usual populist grain, although those two have been the most vocal.
Others, too, have made it clear they want business aircraft users to pay more toward ATC modernization – currently a $25 user fee for most flights. It was Rockefeller who argued that corporate jets use ATC services but that their operators, in his words, don’t want to pay for them. Unless they are required to pay more, Rockefeller said, he will “look for ways to limit access” to congested areas. “Once corporate executives are required to sit on the tarmac at airports such as Teterboro, they might change their thinking,” he commented snidely.