June 4, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
The Experimental Aircraft Association, on notice from the FAA to expect a bill for air traffic services at EAA AirVenture this summer, is looking to Congress for relief from the user fees that put “a price tag” on safety.
In a June 3 message, EAA Chairman Jack Pelton told EAA members that it was time to speak out against the FAA’s bid to charge air traffic fees at aviation events. EAA members should urge their U.S. senators to sign a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta “in support of GA and opposed to putting a price tag on GA safety,” he said. The letter is now being circulated among senators.
“The best way to help convince lawmakers to join their colleagues is hearing from their state's constituents. That's what we need you to do right now,” Pelton said.
Pelton urged his members to promptly sign a petition available on the EAA website and send a request to the member’s two senators to join the letter opposing the FAA’s “policy shift.”
“For the last 60 years, the FAA has provided essential air traffic services to the EAA AirVenture and other major aviation events. Without FAA’s air traffic control services, major aviation events will begin to shut down, resulting in significant negative economic impacts to the general aviation community. We strongly urge FAA reconsider this decision,” the letter says.
On May 22, AOPA President Craig Fuller criticized the FAA’s user-fee plan for AirVenture as “extremely troubling news,” in light of past warnings that the Obama administration “wants to hit general aviation with user fees.”
A user fee plan is included in Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal, despite repeated defeats for aviation user fees—and in April, a bipartisan group of 223 members of Congress countered by notifying the administration of their opposition.
The FAA announced its intention to charge EAA for travel costs, per-diem expenses and overtime for ATC services at AirVenture—the world’s largest annual GA gathering in Oshkosh, Wis.—shortly after the agency called off plans to close contract control towers under the federal budget sequester. The decision to keep the control towers in operation came after Congress made funding available from other FAA budget sources.
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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