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Wed, May 02, 2007

Aero-News Alert: Senate FAA Funding Bill Would Charge For IFR Flights

Airlines Would Enjoy Cut In Fuel Tax; VFR Piston Pilots Would Get A Break

It's different... but it sure doesn't appear that much better.

The Hill newspaper reports the FAA funding reauthorization bill to be introduced before the Senate this week, by Senators Jay Rockefeller and Trent Lott, would phase out a 4.3 cent per gallon tax airlines pay for fuel... while also introducing a new per-trip fee for piston and turbine general aviation pilots who fly under IFR flight plans.

Under the Senate bill, the FAA would be authorized to "impose a surcharge of $25 [per IFR flight] for air traffic control costs," according to the April 27 staff draft cited by sources.

Conversely, piston-powered aircraft pilots who fly under visual flight rules would not -- repeat, NOT -- be affected by any additional fees, unlike the FAA's proposal. To offset that loss, turbine pilots would see a steep hike in fuel taxes, from 21 cents per gallon to 49 cents per gallon, under the Senate bill.

The Hill states such changes give lawmakers some relief against arguments the FAA's bill unfairly targets planes used for farming, or medical care in smaller communities. Flight training operations would also get a break, according to the legislative newspaper, at least under visual flight conditions.

The Senate's bill would not replace current airline passenger ticket taxes with user fees.

Already, one industry source tells The Hill the Senate bill represents a "huge giveaway" to commercial airlines. It would also seem the Senate -- which the paper states is traditionally more friendly to the airlines, as opposed to the private-sector-oriented House -- is attempting to split general aviation into two groups: turbine pilots (who would pay more) and piston operators (who would now pay less.)

That strategy probably won't work, however... as the unnamed source cited by the paper states, just as before, GA groups representing all segments would present a united front in opposing the Senate bill.

FMI: www.senate.gov/~rockefeller/, http://lott.senate.gov/, www.faa.gov

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