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Thu, Jan 18, 2007

NBAA Fights To Keep Public Aware Of Facts

Ed Bolen Responds To User Fee Article

A recent article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram detailing commercial airline industry arguments to "revamp funding" for the FAA rose hackles among the general aviation (GA) community.

In the article, Air Transport Association (ATA) spokeswoman Sharon Pinkerton says the airlines pay 94 percent of revenues going into the aviation trust fund while only using 68 percent of the system. She adds GA isn't covering its share of the system's cost, especially in light of what she called "an explosive growth in GA" which is "taking up significant resources."

The author also spoke with Ron Ricks, a senior vice president with Southwest Airlines. Ricks was careful to focus the public's attention on the "jet set" so as not to offend "the typical private pilot with a small, single-engine aircraft." Instead, Ricks says the FAA should go after the deep pockets of "movie stars or the huge companies that have fleets of private jets."

Using an argument that is always sure to get the public's attention, Ricks claimed revamping the FAA's funding could lead to lower fares... or at least reduce the need to raise them.

Those comments rankled Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), enough so that he fired off a short missive to address some of the comments made by Pinkerton and Ricks.

Bolen says the airlines are seeking a "sweetheart deal" that would cut their taxes while increasing fees for smaller aircraft operators. He says the general aviation industry represents the lifeblood of small businesses and small and rural communities all across America.

According to Bolen, "In justifying their Robin-Hood-in-reverse plea, the airlines revert to the time-worn mantra that consumers somehow will benefit by giving the big airlines a windfall once again. But if history is any guide, your readers shouldn't count on ever seeing more change in their pockets. Twice in the past decade, the taxes lapsed, and according to a 2004 General Accounting Office report, 'carriers generally raised base airfares.'"

Bolen went on to explain the ever increasing demand on the nation's air traffic control resources is a direct result of the airlines' "feverish" desire to hold on to an antiquated hub-and-spoke system of major airports. He says putting so many aircraft in such close proximity increases complexity and costs, while GA aircraft spreading out across the smaller regional and municipal airports relieves congestion and reduces controller workload.

Bolen summed up by saying, "Instead of trying to impose our tax obligations on others, we in the general aviation community want to focus on modernizing the aviation system for all Americans. We hope the airlines will join us in a dialogue that will truly modernize our air traffic control system, improve safety in the skies and improve the efficiency of the industry."



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