AOPA ready to move forward, but without user fees

April 2, 2008

AOPA ready to move forward, but without user fees

By AOPA Publishing staff

In his 27 years as an aviation policy professional, the past few have been the closest the general aviation community has come to a civil war with the FAA and airlines, said a top AOPA official.

Instead of the industry debating about the future of the air traffic control system, it has been fighting about how it’s going to be paid for, said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. Cebula spoke on April 1 at a National Air Traffic Controllers Association safety conference in Chicago.

“For almost 40 years, we’ve had a system that has combined the taxes paid by the users of aviation in concert with monies from the general fund, because there is a benefit, as we all know, of the aviation system to the country. And that system has worked,” Cebula said.

Former FAA administrator Marion Blakey and the airlines had wanted to make radical changes to the ATC system by charging user fees for entering Class B airspace and a 50-cent-a-gallon increase in avgas. But, as Cebula pointed out, such fees have devastated GA in Australia. In Europe, flying costs three times as much as it does in the United States. And in Canada, fees have trickled down to small operators, despite earlier promises to the contrary.

At the same time, Cebula said, that GA is willing to pay its share by supporting legislation (H.R.2881), which would modestly increase avgas taxes to go toward ATC modernization.

AOPA’s goal is to get a bill through the current Congress.

“We want to move ahead, but we do not want to move ahead by accepting user fees,” Cebula said.

April 2, 2008