Advocacy Briefs


No User Fees!

Jun 04, 2013

The repeated calls for user fees on general aviation are ill-considered. User fees could cripple the GA industry, ground pilots, stifle business growth, and threaten safety without raising enough revenue to maintain the aviation system.

AOPA is concerned that repeated and ongoing calls for the imposition of user fees on general aviation are ill-considered and do not take into account the serious negative consequences of such fees for pilots, aircraft operators, and the national economic interest.

The current Administration has pursued this agenda tenaciously, including user fees in numerous funding proposals despite strong opposition from the general aviation community and Congress.

The context of the current round of fee proposals is especially troubling. These proposals appear to be part of a concerted effort to undermine general aviation through a “death by 1,000 cuts.” At the same time, the proposals are part of an apparent policy shift that would move responsibility for the national air transport system away from the federal government and onto the backs of local communities and system users. Efforts to force communities to pay for control tower operations are evidence of this shift.

Aviation system users already fund the system through federal excise taxes on aviation fuel. While these taxes are overseen by Congress, user fees would not require Congressional oversight, making it possible to expand or increase the fees with little or no debate or justification. In addition, the collection of fees would require the creation of an expensive new bureaucracy, ensuring that only a fraction of the funds collected would actually be returned to the system.

While airlines and commercial services can recoup fees by distributing the costs among passengers and customers, general aviation users must pay these expenses, which have the potential to represent a high percentage of the cost of each flight, from their own pockets. Attempts to initiate fees for only some segments of general aviation appear to be an attempt to divide and conquer.

User fees could cripple the general aviation industry, ground pilots, stifle business growth, and threaten safety without raising enough revenue to maintain the aviation system.

  • Fees would represent an added burden in addition to excise taxes already paid by system users.
  • Collecting fees would require an expensive new bureaucracy.
  • Once user fees are enacted, they can be expanded and increased without Congressional oversight or user input.
  • Charging fees for access and essential services poses a safety threat as aircraft operators attempt to reduce costs by minimizing their use of these services.
  • User fees would price some system users out of the market, reducing the number of flights and, in return, the demand for general aviation aircraft, products, and services.
  • With fewer flights taking place, user fees would, over time, generate less revenue, requiring that the fees be increased and pricing more users out of the market.
  • The $150 billion in annual economic impact and 1.2 million jobs that general aviation delivers would be in jeopardy as would the growth of the businesses that rely on general aviation.

It is in the interests of the aviation community to prevent user fees from being implemented as a mechanism for funding the aviation system. The preferred means for funding the system is through the current system of excise taxes imposed on fuel sales. AOPA will continue to seek support from Congress, the user community, and other aviation organizations to ensure that user fees do not become an accepted method of funding the aviation system.

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3rd Class Medical Exemption

Jun 04, 2013

AOPA and EAA have submitted a request to the FAA to give pilots the option of using their driver’s license as the baseline of health, instead of a 3rd class medical.

On March 20, 2012, AOPA and EAA submitted a request to the FAA that would offer pilots the option of obtaining a 3rd class FAA medical or instead, become educated on medical self-assessment and fly recreationally using their driver's license as the baseline of health.

The exemption would be allowed for use in certain sized aircraft and particular types of operations: for example, a single-engine aircraft with 180 horsepower or less, four seats or fewer, and fixed gear, with operations limited to day VFR flight with one passenger, and not for hire or in furtherance of a business. Through this exemption, any pilot holding a student, recreational, private, commercial, or ATP certificate would have the option of operating under this exemption when flying recreationally.

With the implementation of the Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft Rule, the FAA already uses the driver’s license as a basic form of establishing medical fitness.  As expected, the use of the driver's license medical for sport pilots has not negatively impacted safety.

In fact, an AOPA Air Safety Institute study of light sport aircraft accidents from 2004 – 2011 showed there were NO accidents attributable to pilot medical deficiency. Granting this petition would provide an equivalent level of safety and, in practice, an even greater level of safety than we have today. That’s because it requires initial and recurrent education for pilots on aeromedical factors, a requirement that does not exist today. 

More than 70 percent of AOPA and EAA members expressed a strong interest in this exemption and as a result, there was an extraordinary outpouring of responses to the FAA docket.  Over 16,000 comments were filed in support of the petition.  We thank our incredible community for coming together and sending a clear message to the FAA! 

The comment period closed in September 2012 and at this time, the FAA has not told us when we might expect a final decision.  And because this is a petition, there is no deadline. We continue to meet with FAA officials regularly and encourage a decision quickly. Needless to say, we are disappointed that the FAA has not yet taken action.

During the recent debate over the series of automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, we’ve taken the opportunity to remind the FAA that enacting our petition would allow for substantial economic savings.  We conservatively estimate that the federal government could save over $11 million in a 10 year period.

Conservative estimates show that it would also save pilots more than $241 million over 10 years.  These are the kinds of common-sense exemptions that must be allowed in order to make flying more affordable for our members.  

Adopting this petition is a win-win for the general aviation community and the federal government. It will result in substantial savings, reduce bureaucracy and eliminate an unnecessary burden.
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