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Fri, May 26, 2006

AAL's Arpey Calls Current ATC Funding System Unfair

Suggests BizAv Users Fly American Instead

At a luncheon speech before the Executives' Club of Chicago Wednesday, American Airlines CEO Gerald Arpey (below) joined the chorus of voices from domestic airlines advocating user fees for business aviation traffic as a means to pay for an upgraded air traffic control network.

"To a beacon, a satellite or a computer a blip is a blip, and costs are determined by the number of blips being managed," Arpey said, arguing that a small business jet carrying just a few people puts the same strain on air traffic control as an American 777.

Arpey also put forth his own take on the current system of funding ATC in the US, in which Arpey said commercial airlines pay 90 percent of ATC costs while using two-thirds of its services... whereas business aviation pays five percent of the cost, but uses 19 percent of its services.

"Crazy as it sounds, under the current system, the airlines -- one of our country's most important, but least healthy industries -- are actually subsidizing the corporate travel of other -- presumably much healthier -- entities, as well as individuals who can afford their own jets," Arpey said.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that -- realizing a few of those individuals were likely in the audience -- Arpey suggested a way for them to avoid paying any future user fees: that they fly American instead. (We can only guess the reaction he got from that statement -- Ed.)

Of course, a system based on user fees is opposed by the general and business aviation sectors -- including the National Business Aviation Association.

NBAA president Ed Bolen told the Chicago Sun-Times that to treat all airplanes the same -- as Arpey suggested -- would ignore the fact that the commercial airlines' hub-and-spoke routing system dictates the cost of the air traffic control system.

"The controllers are not there because of business aviation," NBAA president Ed Bolen told Sun-Times. "The problem is 50 airplanes all departing O'Hare at 9 o'clock."

FMI: www.aa.com, www.nbaa.org

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