Association Calls On Finance Cmte. To Use Excise Taxes For
AOPA is NOT letting up on User Fee
proponents as the misinformation campaign waged by the airline
lobby continues to confuse legislators and travelers alike.
AOPA continues to point out the fact that, "There is no reason
to impose user fees on the National Air Transportation System;
aviation taxes should be used to pay for modernizing air traffic
control." That is the core message that Phil Boyer, president of
the AOPA, delivered to the Senate Finance Committee in a written
statement prepared for Thursday’s hearing on FAA funding.
“There is no doubt that AOPA is committed to modernize the
ATC system,” Boyer wrote. “The big question is how to
pay the FAA an estimated $4.6 billion needed over the next
five-years for NextGen (Next Generation Air Traffic Control
General Aviation Pilots Fear For The Future
The two-year push by the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) and the airlines to shift to a
user-fee funded system has created a great deal of pessimism among
AOPA’s 412,000 members about the future of general aviation
in the United States.
“The fear, based in large part from what has happened
around the world, is that ultimately pilots will be priced out of
the sky,” Boyer told the Senators. “AOPA members have
seen that ATC user fees stymie general aviation around the world
with huge costs to operate aircraft and, most importantly, insert
cost considerations into critical safety decisions.
“Pilots in Europe's user fee system are continually faced
with additional charges for use of the aviation system resulting in
a decision between use of a safety service and the cost,”
“For example in Germany, general aviation pilots face
penalties when they are unable to complete a non-precision
instrument approach at a general aviation airport as originally
planned because of deteriorating weather conditions. The penalty,
when combined with a landing fee, to fly a precision approach at an
alternate air carrier airport could total $1,000. This is due to
user fee pricing schemes and congestion management principals aimed
at deterring general aviation pilots from using the services thus
affecting safety,” he concluded.
Don’t Give The Airlines Yet Another Tax Break
Boyer’s testimony notes that the Senate version of the FAA
reauthorization bill eliminates the only tax that the airlines
themselves contribute to the aviation trust fund – the 4.3
cents/gallon fuel tax. That cut amounts to nearly $500 million
dollars each year to an industry that has received $37 billion in
tax breaks and bailouts in the past decade.
“General aviation is willing to help pay for air traffic
control modernization, but we are not willing to pay for a tax cut
for the airlines,” said Boyer’s testimony.
“How can an airline tax break even be considered if there is
need for more money to modernize the system?”
Keep Air Traffic Control Modernization In Perspective
This summer, the FAA and the airlines have attempted to turn
lemons into lemonade by blaming their delay problems on the
“antiquated” air traffic control system and on general
aviation – specifically business jets.
But Boyer noted in his testimony that modernization is not the
cure-all that the airlines and the FAA are claiming.
“They assert that modernization will immediately eliminate
or dramatically reduce delays,” he wrote. “This
is not true. The FAA reports the single most prevalent cause
of delays is weather. And, no amount of modernization is ever
going to make it safe for an aircraft to fly through a
thunderstorm. Weather delays are compounded by the
airlines’ practice of scheduling more aircraft onto a runway
than the runway can handle in a given period of time.”
Boyer noted that while incorporating new technology will improve
the air traffic control system, doing so will take time and will
not be an immediate solution to problem of congestion and
delays. “In reality, there is a limit to the amount of
improvement and capacity modernization brings,” he wrote.
And despite airline claims to the contrary, general aviation is
not a major cause of delays. General aviation accounts for only
four percent of operations at the top ten major hubs. In
fact, based on operation counts from the FAA’s New York
Approach Control (N90), general aviation operations are down by 9
percent since 2002. At the New York area airports general
aviation is down as well. And it is important to note that
airline ground holds in New York also apply to instrument
operations from nearby Teterboro as well.
Taxes – Not Fees
Boyer’s statement urges
the committee members to rely on taxes, not user fees, to fund both
day-to-day operations at the FAA and modernization of the air
traffic control system.
“While I know that the Finance Committee does not have
jurisdiction over the $25 air traffic control modernization
surcharge (‘user fee’) included in S. 1300, we urge
your action to provide the aviation taxes necessary to fund the
aviation system, eliminating the need for the $25 fee,” he
“Then, we can all get on with the real issues at hand
through a productive, meaningful discussion on how to strengthen
the nation’s airports and modernize air traffic control
– the plan, design, implementation – that enables the
U.S. to continue its global aviation leadership