FAA Forecast Conference hints at future user fees

March 18, 2005

FAA Forecast Conference hints at future user fees
NOT ON OUR WATCH! AOPA's Boyer responds

Boyer takes member reactions to FAA forecast conference
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NATA President Jim Coyne and
AOPA President Phil Boyer

Today culminated the Thirtieth Annual FAA Forecast Conference in Washington, D.C., and AOPA President Phil Boyer was on hand to present the concerns and perceptions of the AOPA membership to the aviation community. The general aviation breakout session at the conference this morning focused on current issues and the outlook for the future. While 63 percent of AOPA members surveyed are optimistic about the overall future of general aviation, Boyer noted, "About 52 percent of our members polled think there is economic turbulence ahead," and 69 percent believe that the current political climate has a negative effect on GA. Boyer presented a Letterman-style Top Ten list of issues confronting GA pilots, capping that with a top three that will sound familiar: the increasing cost of aircraft insurance, the possibility of user fees, and the closure of GA airports. And the reasons that airports die? According to AOPA members, noise tops the list.

On the positive side? Boyer reported that more than 75 percent think that the FAA should focus on its already fine efforts on safety education - as opposed to adding more regulation - and conference participants, including FAA representatives, received the suggestion well.

More than one billion airline passengers. More than 750,000 pilots flying more than 240,000 general aviation aircraft for almost 33 million hours. That's the future for 2015, according to the FAA's two-day Thirtieth Annual Forecast Conference in Washington, D.C. But the GA forecast "assumes that general aviation activity will not be subject to new user-fees or limited access to airports and airspace," say the FAA statisticians.

Wait a minute. Did somebody say user fees?

Well, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey told the conference, "I'm not at this point advocating user fees." On the other hand, when speaking about the new flight service station system at AOPA Expo just five months earlier she said, "The FAA does not support a fee-based system. I don't know how to be any clearer than that."

But yesterday she also said, "Our workload goes up, our revenue goes down.... We need a revenue stream based both on our costs and on our actual units of production." Then she gave the very short list of countries that don't charge for the actual cost of air traffic control services. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and other politicians speaking to the conference also talked of the need for a "new revenue stream" for the FAA.

"The possibility of user fees being imposed on general aviation and privatizing air traffic control are among the highest concerns of AOPA members," AOPA President Phil Boyer told the media, lawmakers, and government officials at the conference. "Many believe user fees would destroy general aviation as we know it in the United States."

AOPA knows what its members think because the association regularly polls them. The most recent survey - accurate to within four percentage points - was completed within the last five weeks. "We regularly ask our members what's on their minds, what's important to them, and that gives AOPA its marching orders," said Boyer.

"And the members are very clear - NO USER FEES! We've heard them. And you'll continue to hear from us," Boyer said. "We'll work to help make the FAA more efficient. We'll work for sufficient and equitable funding for the FAA. But it won't be user fees on general aviation pilots!"

March 18, 2005