User-Fee Assault Renewal Threatens GA, Again -- Unity
Among Air Carriers Poses Different Threat Than Last Time
By ANN Correspondent Dave Higdon
"That was then…this is now," warned NBAA Ed Bolen during
the press breakfast that annually kicks off opening day of the
National Business Aviation Association Convention.
"Then" was back around 1997, when most of today's "legacy"
airlines attempted a legislative coup that would shift the tax
burden of their passengers to the passengers of the low-fare
carriers - specifically and especially Southwest Airlines.
"Now" is today, 2005, and this time air carriers appear united
behind an effort to shift their tax burden onto general aviation.
And it's not going to be pretty.
"The airlines are trying to sell this idea that a blip is a blip
- that a single-engine turboprop carrying six people should pay the
same as an Airbus A380 carrying 580."
Somehow, noted Bolen and GAMA president Pete Bunce, they want
people to believe that general aviation is somehow not paying its
fair share. In place of today's tax system - an excise tax levied
on each gallon of fuel - the air carriers want a system that
charges by the takeoff and time using the system. Said Bunce, "In
place of the existing simple, fair, efficient system of fuel excise
taxes, they want a system that's complicated, expensive to run,
inefficient and complicated."
Such a system would require far more people, far more paperwork
and far more money to operate. Imagine receiving a lengthy invoice
each month for your touch-and-go work, your cross-country work, for
filing for flight following or instrument fights. Imagine something
akin to a merger of your credit-card and cell-phone bills.
Wouldn't that be fun? Now imagine you wade through all those
pages and find charges for flights you know you didn't make. If
you've ever had to challenge an incorrect phone or credit bill, you
can imagine the fun of challenging the government's contention you
owe them for those flights not flown.
Divide & Conquer becomes Divide and Charge Us
When last air-traffic
system charges were an issue for the airlines, the debate was
largely within the air-carrier industry. According to Bolen, "The
major carriers basically told us in general aviation that we
weren't part of their argument and that we didn't have to worry."
With the majors' average fare hovering around $400, their
passengers were paying about $40 per ticket in excise taxes;
Southwest passengers, with that airline's average fare of around
$69, paid less than $7. "They weren't interested in us, they were
out for Southwest."
This time, with the airlines united, the bull's eye hangs on the
empennage of general aviation. To paraphrase Bolen, the airlines
hope to divide and conquer the community of private and corporate
"We've heard of schemes that would try to differentiate between
piston and turbine operations, of ideas about trying to split us
between VFR and IFR operations," Bolen said. But, he noted, with
piston aircraft accounting for around 11 percent of all IFR
flights, using that difference as a wedge may not work to shift the
costs the way the airlines want.
"We've talked to the other major groups, to Phil Boyer and AOPA,
to Tom Poberezny at EAA, and we're going to present a united
front," Bolen said.
"We have to."
Red Cross Recognizes NBAA for Katrina Relief Efforts
As everyone at the NBAA Convention knows, Hurricane Katrina
imposed its will on NBAA by devastating the Gulf Coast and forcing
the meeting's move out of New Orleans. But neither the association
nor its members simply turned their backs on the region.
As one part of the NBAA staff tackled the logistics of uprooting
the meeting and starting the process of finding a new location and
the challenging logistics of a shift in only 10 weeks, another part
of the NBAA staff helped organize relief airlifts by members with
available aircraft. And the NBAA membership responded with their
wallets as well as their hardware, donating more than $15 million
to the Red Cross.
Wednesday morning the head of the Orlando chapter of the
American Red Cross came to NBAA to acknowledge the efforts of the
association and its membership with the presentation of a plaque to
NBAA president Ed Bolen. Joel Potts commended the efforts of the
NBAA, of Ed Bolen, his staff and members in his presentation and
announced that the aid continues to flow from members' wallets
through a 1 cent per gallon donation being made by static-display
host Showalter Aviation at Orlando Executive Airport. This latest
philanthropic effort will, Potts said, feed another $30,000 into
the efforts to help victims of Florida's latest hurricane,
Challenger 605: The Latest Incarnation Of Bombardier's
Best-Selling Mid-Size Line
Bombardier's best-selling Challenger 604 is nearing 10 and it,
too, is getting a major facelift in the form of the Challenger 605,
the company announced at NBAA. While retaining all the performance,
operating efficiency and utility of the 604 it replaces, the 605
also gets the benefits of Rockwell Collins' increasingly popular
Pro Line 21 integrated avionics suite. Bombardier opted to make a
number of popular 604 options standard on the 605, among them an
enhanced auto-throttle system, enhanced Flight Data Recorder, large
flat-panel monitors in the main cabin, and an aft baggage
In the 605's Pro Line 21 installation, Bombardier opted for a
quadrant of 10 X 12-inch advanced liquid-crystal displays, all
mounted in a portrait orientation. Compared to the six Pro Line 4
7.25-inch-square displays, this new Pro Line 21 system ups display
space by more than half. These new larger screens of the Pro Line
21 provide more capability and more flexibility than the screens
they replace. Options include enhanced maps, three-dimensional
flight-route portrayal and either XM Satellite Radio or Universal
Weather's datalink weather graphics.
Bombardier didn't neglect the cabin on the evolution of this
jet, most notably giving the cabin new larger windows mounted
higher off the floor for improved visibility and a sensation of a
larger cabin. First flight of the Challenger 605 is expected early
in 2006, with first delivery in the second quarter of 2007.
Cessna's Looking For A Few Good Planes For Its Fifth Citation
Special Olympics Airlift
An airlift like no other
is on the schedule for July of next year and it will, if past
history is any arbiter, move people in ways that no other flight
operations can match. The games next year run from July 2 to July 7
in Ames, Iowa.
Cessna needs almost 120 more Citation owners to volunteer their
aircraft, fuel and crew to reach its goal of 400 Citations flying
the Special Olympians to and from the games on July 1 and July 8.
Already more than 140 Citation owners have signed up for these
missions; at 400, the 2006 Citation Special Olympics Airlift will
be larger than any of the prior four airlifts, which topped out at
275 Citations during the 1999 games in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
"The airlift is absolutely essential to the success of the
Games," said Bruce Pasternack, president and CEO of Special
Olympics Inc. "We have a lot of athletes coming from all over the
United States and transportation is the biggest expense each state
has to bear."
The Citation Special Olympics Airlift is a logistics miracle run
with the precision of a military exercise. Over a period of
approximately 18 hours, a Citation lands every 60 to 90 seconds,
its athletes and their families disembark, and the jet quick turns
back out for its next mission. The process repeats again and again
until all the athletes flying by Citation are landed. After the
games end, the process reverses until all the champions have
returned to their departure airports.
Noted Cessna chairman Jack Pelton, "The success of the Citation
Special Olympics Airlift depends on the collaboration and
tremendous support we receive from individuals within Cessna, the
FAA, on-site airport officials, local fixed-base operators,
hundreds of volunteers from the community, the Special Olympics
organization and most importantly, Citation owners and
As a first-hand witness to the 1991 airlift to St. Paul, Minn.,
it's an experience that transforms both the athletes and the
volunteers who make it happen. Operators and owners ready to
volunteer their Citation can contact Cessna's CSOA director,
Marilyn Richwine at email@example.com.