Among Those Testifying Were King Schools Co-Founder Martha King, Epps Aviation CFO Marian Epps
The House Committee on Small Business conducted a hearing titled "User Fees in the Aviation Industry: Turbulence Ahead" on Wednesday. The purpose of this hearing was to discuss the financial and regulatory impact of additional user fees on the aviation industry. The President has proposed a fee of $100 per flight on operators. The hearing examined the potential effect of a user-fee proposal on private sector job creation.
"The general aviation industry is predominantly made up of small businesses. Annually, it accounts for about 27 million flight hours and carries 166 million passengers to around 5,000 communities," said committee chair Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO) in his opening statement. "According to the National Air Transportation Association, more than two-thirds of general aviation flights are for business purposes. Overall, general aviation -- both operations and manufacturing -- employs about 1.2 million people and contributes approximately $150 billion to our gross domestic product. Bottom line, general aviation is a significant part of our national economy.
"Imposing a $100 per flight user fee on operators is simply the wrong approach," he continued. "The President offered few details as to how such a system would be established and even less analysis of how it would impact the aviation industry. I believe this is bad policy, and there is little doubt it would stifle job creation and economic growth in the United States. I would also like to remind my colleagues of the broad and bipartisan opposition from Congress to the President’s proposal and ask unanimous consent that this letter, signed by 195 members of Congress, expressing concerns be submitted into the record." Graves also chairs the House GA Caucus.
Among the witnesses was Martha King (pictured below with husband John King), the co-founder of King Schools, who shared her perspectives in testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, on behalf of the NBAA’s 9,000 member companies.
“We are counting on you to spread the word,” King told members of Congress, “per-flight fees destroy.” King went on to underscore the general aviation community’s long-held position that the “pay-at-the-pump” fuel tax is most efficient, least burdensome way for the general aviation community, which includes companies of all sizes that use an airplane for business, to help pay for operation of the nation’s air transportation system.
King, who with her husband John founded their flight-training company out of their home in southern California nearly 40 years ago, said their business was able to grow over the years thanks to the productivity and efficiency that has come from using an airplane in support of their business.
She reminded policymakers that the vast majority of companies in business aviation are small to mid-size businesses like hers, and that many of the planes used for business are flown to airports with little or no scheduled airline service, which means that business aviation is also a valued lifeline to many American communities.
“As you know, general aviation is one of our nation’s most significant industries,” she told committee members, noting that in recent years, the economic recession has taken a heavy toll on general aviation. “While things have stabilized somewhat, we have yet to approach anything near our 2007 or 2008 levels. King Schools has not been spared from the impact,” she said, reporting that her company, which had 70 employees in 2007, had reduced in size to 50 employees in 2012.
“It is difficult to imagine how, at a time when a critical American industry is struggling the way general aviation is, people in Washington could be contemplating an onerous, regressive and administratively burdensome new, per-flight tax euphemistically called a ‘user fee,’” she said.
King was joined in testifying at the hearing by Marian Epps (pictured), CFO of Epps Aviation in Atlanta, GA, who testified on behalf of the National Air Transportation Association. "In a time when general aviation businesses are looking to spur economic and job growth, the imposition of a user fee would decimate small businesses around the country that depend on general aviation. User fees would also be detrimental to many states with little or no commercial airline service where general aviation plays an integral economic role,” Epps stated. “User fees would significantly impede general aviation in the United States for a variety of reasons, including a reduction in general aviation activity and the imposition of an onerous administrative burden as user bills are typically generated after the flight,” she said.
Also testifying was Brad Pierce, president of Restaurant Equipment World in Orlando, FL, who spoke on behalf of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.