FAA Funding Debate - Impact: Increased Costs

AOPA FAA Funding Debate

Increasing your flying costs

The proposed aviation gasoline tax increase from 19.4 to 70.1 cents-per-gallon would have an immediate impact on your cost of flying, of course. Even for a simple training aircraft, direct operating costs would increase at least $5.00 an hour.

But there are more charges aimed at general aviation as well.

The FAA proposes charging user fees to all aircraft operating in Class B airspace in order to reduce congestion at hub airports. The proposed fee
($105 x aircraft weight ÷ 100,000) would be about $5 for a typical light single-engine aircraft every time it transited Class B airspace.

And as the administration has written the legislation, if Congress gives the FAA anything less than 70.1 cents in avgas tax, the FAA could impose landing fees for all aircraft at some 215 airports with commercial air service, plus hit general aviation pilots with the same kind of air traffic control user fees the agency is proposing for the airlines.

But there are even more fees for GA in the FAA's proposal. You'd have to pay the FAA $42 every time you renew your medical certificate, and you'd still have to pay the doctor as well. The FAA would charge you $50 to issue a new certificate or rating, in addition to what you have to pay the designated examiner. Lose or damage your certificate, and you'd pay Uncle Sam $25 for a replacement.

First time you register your aircraft, the FAA would want $130. Then there would be a recurrent renewal fee.

Many other fees haven't been set yet, but if the FAA follows the European model (and they say they think that's the way to do things), they'd be exorbitant. Certificating an aircraft in Europe is an horrendous expense, because the certifying agencies charge by the hour. That, of course, would make buying an aircraft in the United States even more expensive.

Is Europe really the model?

What could it really cost to fly under a user fee system? The FAA has said that under its proposal general aviation would pay primarily through a fuel tax. But as mentioned above, the agency has already put a trap door in its proposed legislation so that it could charge GA user fees.

The costs imposed in other countries are sobering and could indicate the price range for critical services.

Preflight services

  • Germany charges $1.50 per minute for a weather briefing and $105 annually for Internet access to weather information
  • In the United Kingdom, it costs almost $30 per "live voice consultation," plus an additional $5.31 for each forecast product used
  • In Austria, the average 10-minute briefing costs $22.20
  • The Philippines charges $9.50 for the preflight package, including the mandatory flight plan filing charges.

Landing fees

  • The Netherlands charges $10 - $50 for a Cessna 172 to land
  • The Philippines charges $9.50 for IFR and for night flights that rely on electronic navigation aids
  • Austria charges $70 for a general aviation aircraft to land, $5 for a shuttle ride from the aircraft to the terminal, and $12 for a security screening to return to the aircraft after refueling

Pilot certification fees

  • Israel charges $356 for an annual certification of airworthiness renewal and $243 for an instrument proficiency review
  • The Netherlands' private pilot written exam costs up to $1,000

Increasing costs to all Americans

What's frequently overlooked is how much it costs to run a user fee system. During the last debate on aviation taxes and fees in the late 1990's, the Internal Revenue Service reported that it only cost $1.7 million to collect over $5.5 billion in excise tax revenue. A mere .001% cost by the government to collect! That's because aviation fuel taxes are collected at the refinery, and ticket taxes are simply forwarded to the government.

A user fee system would require a costly new bureaucracy to assess the charges, send out the bills, and enforce collection. Those costs would be passed on to everyone who uses the air transportation system, even indirectly.

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