The sky's the limit when it comes to user fees

February 15, 2007

The sky's the limit when it comes to user fees

Airplane on ramp

How bad could the Bush administration's user fee proposal be? Well, let's consider a student pilot learning to fly at a nontowered general aviation airport in Newton, Kansas.

Before she can solo, she'd have to pay a new fee of $42 to the FAA for her medical certificate (plus about $65 to the AME for the examination).

Her rental costs would go up significantly because the avgas tax would increase nearly fourfold - to 70 cents a gallon. That means an additional $5.10 an hour, at least, tacked onto the rental charge.

Now at some point during her training, she'll need to fly into the Class B airspace around Kansas City to learn how to work with air traffic control. But every time she does, she'll be dinged with a charge for using the terminal airspace.

We don't know what the charge would be yet, but it would apply to any GA aircraft flying in any of the 30 Class B terminal areas. The FAA says the charge would only apply to landing at the hub airport, but the proposed law actually says it would apply to any operations in the airspace.

"They've started to weasel already," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The FAA also says that general aviation would pay for its use of the system 'primarily through a fuel tax,' yet right out of the box they've added user fees."

When our student goes for her checkride, not only would she pay the designated examiner, she'd have to pay the FAA $50 to issue her certificate.

The FAA has proposed some 13 new or increased fees that would impact pilots, aircraft owners, and mechanics at various times through their aviation lives.

Registering an aircraft would cost $130, plus a recurrent renewal fee.

Issuing any airman certificate would cost $50, replacing a certificate would be $25.

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.

"Our members have told us that if the gas tax were to triple, most of them would reduce or stop their flying," said Boyer. "This proposal stacks more taxes on top of user fees. It would kill GA.

"We intend to kill it before it kills us."

For more information, see " The FAA Funding Debate and User Fees."

February 15, 2007