User fees proposal lurks in debt-reduction talks

AOPA calls on members to contact their senators, representatives

July 21, 2011

User fee threats are lurking just below the surface on Capitol Hill, as the federal government looks for ways to reduce the deficit and find new revenue streams.

AOPA has received information that talk of user fees ranging from $25 to $100 or more could be proposed for services such as flight planning or aircraft operations. Neither a specific proposal nor legislation has been put forth, but the rumblings are growing and AOPA isn’t wasting any time calling on its members to take action.

The administration’s bureaucrats “have elected to put back on the table a user fee that would be attached to flight plans or to aircraft operations. Some say it’s $25, some say it’s $100, some say it only applies to jets,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller in an exclusive announcement on AOPA Live, in which he also provided background information on user fees and an insider look at what’s going on in Washington, D.C. “The fact is it would create a new method for raising money from the general aviation community. It’s a proposal that’s been rejected before, and it’s one we need to reject again today.

“So we need you to write your congressman and we need you to write to your United States senator and let them know you oppose user fees.”

The economic crisis has proven severe, government spending and debt is at an all-time high, and changes need to take place, Fuller said, but GA should not be singled out. While AOPA opposes user fees, the association acknowledges that pilots will need to pay more. However, those payments should be made “at the pump” in the form of the tried-and-true aviation fuel tax, Fuller said.

“As we go through this, we may well pay additional money,” Fuller said. “In fact the FAA reauthorization bill has had for three years an increase in fuel taxes to be paid by general aviation. But that charge is one that we embraced because, again, it’s paid at the pump. It’s paid by those who use aircraft. Larger aircraft pay more, aircraft that fly more frequently pay more because they pay at the pump.”

Fuller pointed out that user fees have been tried before—in Europe—and have proven disastrous to GA. That isn’t a path the United States, with a vibrant GA industry, should follow. Paying user fees for flight planning or air traffic control services, or even certain aircraft operations, could introduce safety-of-flight issues by discouraging pilots from obtaining a weather briefing, filing a flight plan, or using flight following services. It could even force pilots to stretch their aircraft’s range too far in order to avoid operations at multiple airports along their route of flight.

Fuller urged all AOPA members to tell their senator and representative to say “no” to user fees. Members can enter their zip code on the House website to find their representative and his or her contact information. On the Senate website, simply select the state from a dropdown menu in the upper right corner to be directed to the appropriate contact information.

Help quash user fee threat

AOPA is calling on all members to get involved and help prevent user fees. Members can take two key actions to help immediately, and they are as simple as a few clicks of the mouse or a phone call.

First, contact your senator or representative. Tell them that user fees are a bad idea—they are inefficient, expensive to administer, and can compromise safety. To find your representative’s contact information, just enter your zip code on the House website. On the Senate website, simply select your state from a dropdown menu in the upper right corner to be directed to the appropriate contact information.

Second, you can contribute to the AOPA Political Action Committee. The AOPA PAC is the only arm of AOPA allowed to give direct support to GA supporters in Congress. And supporting the many senators and representatives who adamantly oppose user fees is an important step in protecting our freedom to fly. Contribute today!