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Wed, May 23, 2007

Boyer, May Agree On Need To Modernize ATC At Aero Club Debate

ATA President Says His Beef Is With Corporate Jets

It still comes down to user fees. AOPA President Phil Boyer and the airlines' representative, James May of the Air Transport Association (ATA), squared off Tuesday for a debate on the FAA funding legislation. AOPA and ATA are the two biggest guns of the aviation user community, and they got to speak face to face in Washington, DC before the monthly meeting of the Washington Aero Club.

Boyer wasted no time in making an attack, stating every time it came time to renew the FAA funding legislation, the airlines always tried for a giant tax cut for themselves and more control over the nation's air traffic control system.

"And this time, the airlines have manufactured every crisis they can to put the ill on general aviation," Boyer told the audience of congressional staff members, FAA officials, and national news media.

But Boyer also said AOPA and the airlines were very close on many issues, including the need to modernize the ATC system.

"Our only concern is the introduction of a user fee to any segment of aviation, whether it be $5 or $25," said Boyer, referring specifically to the Senate's FAA funding bill. "Even if it were just the airlines [paying user fees], to put that structure in place would be a slippery slope. As we've seen around the world, fees would eventually trickle down to general aviation, with devastating economic results."

Somewhat shockingly, May said he was willing to drop user fees for GA. "I've never advocated a collection formula," he said, "the collection method should be wide open to the user."

However, May also continued to insist corporate aviation was not paying enough.

"I don't have any grief with Phil at all," said May. Piston GA is exempt from user fees in the Senate bill "and I support that. My beef quite frankly is with the corporate jets. I'm just trying to find a little balance from some folks who can easily afford to pay their fair share."

Boyer used an e-mail from an AOPA member to answer the "fair share" question. "The air traffic control system was built for the flying public. The users aren't the airlines or GA, but the people who fly inside those silver tubes."

When you went to the drive-in to watch a movie —-- Boyer said, using the member's analogy -- each person in the car had to buy a ticket. The cost for supplying the parking spot wasn't any different if there were two or six people in the car, but each person got the benefit of seeing the movie.

Boyer also pointed out that if paying one's "fair share" was the only criteria for funding a transportation system, only 15 states would have interstate and federal highways. The federal roads in all the other states were "subsidized" by drivers in 15 states.

"We have the best air transportation system in the world," said Boyer. "Let's consider very carefully before we muck up a funding system that has served us so well."



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