December 28, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
In the spirit of the aviation mnemonic that uses “the five Ts” to remember what comes next on an instrument approach, you could say that taxes, technology, training, tetraethyl lead, and tracking of aircraft by Internet users highlighted a checklist of issues facing general aviation in 2011.
Don’t be surprised if a few of them make it back on the list again next year.
AOPA has said it many times over: Even when user fees are not currently on the table, stay vigilant. The outgoing year stands as a fine example. Things started out on an encouraging note, with no sign of user fees in the Obama administration’s budget proposal, thanks partly to the vigorous efforts of the industry and a newly reconstituted General Aviation Caucus in Congress. But as the economy remained stagnant and pressure grew to address burgeoning deficits, the battle was joined again later in the year.
By July, AOPA had put members on alert that reports were circulating about a possible user fee—somewhere between $25 and $100 per flight—lurking in deficit-reduction proposals. Those reports were confirmed in a big way when a $100 user fee surfaced in the administration’s package for funding hiring incentives and economic development, but foundered when the Senate countered with a proposed surtax on the incomes of wealthy individuals. As a deficit cutting stalemate continued in Congress, deficit reduction was left in the hands of a House-Senate “super committee” that was unable to produce a compromise plan by its reporting deadline in late November. Over the course of the year, allies in Congress came to GA’s defense, with 212 Members of Congress signing letters in opposition to user fees.
Where do we go from here with Congress in recess after Dec. 16? The best guidance for members—again—is “Remain vigilant.”
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Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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