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
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
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."