EAA petitions court to nix FAA ATC fees

July 8, 2013

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) filed a petition July 3 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, asking the court to review and provide relief from payments demanded by the FAA for air traffic control services at the upcoming EAA AirVenture airshow in Oshkosh, Wis.

In its petition, EAA is asking the court to stop the FAA from supplementing its federal budget appropriation by unilaterally imposing fees on aviation events such as AirVenture. EAA says the fees were imposed without standard notice and comment procedure from the FAA, making it procedurally improper and unlawful.

"While we understand the FAA's position and the temptation to augment its congressional appropriation, we naturally don't agree since we believe this approach unlawfully circumvents congressional approval and standard due process," said EAA Chairman Jack J. Pelton. "This affects AirVenture and numerous other aviation events throughout the nation in an unauthorized and unjustified manner. That is why we are seeking review, relief, and clarification from the court."

In a June 7 editorial in TheNorthwestern.com, Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), a member of the House aviation subcommittee and the member of Congress serving Oshkosh, called the agency’s move “another attempt to impose user fees on general aviation—something Congress has rejected numerous times.” He also questioned the FAA’s authority to impose the fee.

A letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta signed by Petri and Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), and Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), a pilot and co-chair of the House General Aviation Caucus, urged the agency to reconsider his decision to impose ATC fees. The letter noted the FAA’s past support of AirVenture and stated that directing air traffic at AirVenture is part of the agency’s core mission.

Despite the FAA receiving exclusive authority from Congress in April to move funds internally within the agency's budget specifically for air traffic control services, the agency told EAA in early May that it would demand a signed contract and payments for air traffic and safety services that had been annually budgeted in the past, to the tune of $447,000. Other aviation events throughout the nation were also assessed fees without warning or the standard notice and comment procedure.

As part of the petition, EAA is asking the court to reverse the FAA's decision to seek these payments, as well as the return of fees already paid and other costs incurred.