I was recently poking around the FAA website when I came across the Airport and Airway Trust Fund Fact Sheet for fiscal year 2016. It was like re-reading a section of the FARs after too many years.
The trust fund was created in 1970 to fund aviation programs with aviation-related excise taxes on passengers, cargo, and fuel. Do you know what percentage of FAA’s annual funding is provided by the trust fund?
- 71.53% in 2013
- 80.10% in 2014
- 92.77% in 2015
- 87.79% in 2016
The remainder of the FAA budget comes from the government’s general fund.
But when I slowed down enough to really look at the charts and graphs in the fact sheet, I was stunned.
Revenue from “Transportation of persons,” “Use of International Air Facilities,” and “Transportation of Property” together totaled $13.782 billion or 95.66% of all excise tax revenue.
When I added the revenue from “Aviation Fuel Commercial,” the excise that revenue derived from commercial operations totals $14.188 bill or 98.48%.
That means 1.52% or $217 million of fiscal year 2016 excise tax revenue came from non-commercial general aviation.
Don’t misunderstand my tone. General aviation plays a vital role in the aviation economy.
And for many VFR only pilots, we produce very little impact on the system. We also pay our own way. We don’t have customers we can pass the fuel tax bill on to.
The leaders of the commercial segment of aviation would do well to remember who is really paying the excise tax bill.
This second chart shows that aviation fuel (commercial and non-commercial lumped together) hardly moves. Meanwhile, revenue (both domestic and international) from airline passengers continues to be clearly visible and since 2010 enjoys a positive rate.
Now I know what a fly on the back of an elephant feels like.