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Thu, Mar 22, 2007

ATA's May Presents Airlines' Case For FAA Reauthorization

Claims Corporate Aviation Is 'Subsidized' Under Current Plan

There are (at least) two sides to every story. On Thursday, Air Transportation Association President James May told the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the critical need to implement a 21st century national air traffic control (ATC) system -- and what he considers the most equitable way to fund such a plan.

In congressional testimony, May stated a modernized, satellite-based ATC system would facilitate safety and capacity improvements that would benefit all users -- general aviation, corporate aviation, commercial airlines and the military.

May was clear on one point: inaction was not an option.

"Without prompt and thorough modernization, the ATC system will progressively asphyxiate," said May. "The stakes are enormous; the public- interest considerations are clear; and the need for prompt, decisive action is undeniable. If we do not act now, irrefutably we will see many more delayed flights and airspace gridlock."

May (below, right) stressed to match a modernized ATC system, Congress must also reform the current FAA funding plan, that he says unfairly taxes airlines and their customers, while subsidizing corporate aviation. May testified that the ATC system must be funded such that revenue keeps our nation's air commerce vibrant and responsive to consumer needs and can be provided fairly and predictably.

May's testimony laid out four financing principles: cost-based usage fees; a robust general fund contribution; financing authority -- such as the authority to issue bonds -- to pay for expanding capital needs; and cost savings from improved ATC system efficiencies.

The ATA chief said such a funding system would enable the ATC system to realize the full potential of emerging technologies, while equitably distributing costs among system users in relation to the services they consume.

"A tripling of the fuel tax will force airline passengers to pay $1 billion annually to general aviation airports under the Airport Improvement Program. These are airports where commercial carriers do not fly and that is unacceptable," said May.

"There is no correlation today between revenue collected and services consumed," he added. "Corporate aircraft cannot continue to get a free ride, congest the system and pass the costs they impose on to airline passengers and shippers."

May pointed out that other countries have introduced similar funding schemes to modernize their ATC systems (which, it must be said, have stifled general aviation traffic in countries such as Canada and Australia -- Ed.)

"This is neither novel nor revolutionary. Congress faces a historic opportunity to ensure that our air transportation system keeps pace with global aviation," said May.

FMI: www.airlines.org

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