At a press conference held today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the Reason Public Policy Institute, the think tank advocating a nonprofit corporation to manage air traffic control, unveiled its controversial plan to revamp the air traffic control system with a user-fee funded system similar to Canada's. The primary author, Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation, is also the author of previous proposals to charge user fees for basic air traffic control safety services. Poole was joined at the press conference by former Secretary of Transportation James Burnley, former Clinton administration economic advisor Dorothy Robyn, economist Alfred Kahn, and former FAA Administrator Langhorne Bond, who all endorsed the report. During his remarks, Bond produced a statement of support for the proposal from other former FAA officials including former administrators Allan McArtor and David Hinson.
Very little appears to have changed from the draft version of the report, obtained by AOPA last November. Poole continues to advocate abolishing the current aviation fuel tax and moving to a user fee system. Under his user fee system, "recreational" GA aircraft and turboprops would pay a simple annual fee based on maximum takeoff weight whereas turbojet-powered aircraft would be charged on a per-transaction basis, using the same weight/distance formulas that would be used for air carrier aircraft of all types. For example, a single-engine Cessna 172 would be charged $200 a year, a $50 reduction from his previous draft, while a twin-engine Beech Baron would be assessed $750, a $215 reduction from his previous offer. These annual fees still do not cover the cost of running the flight service station system. Poole still assumes the general public will be willing to pay those costs in their entirety.
During questioning from reporters, Poole declined to name the specific airlines funding the proposal. Poole cited the privacy wishes of at least one major airline as well as concerns about an overall airline industry agreement not to lobby Congress on behalf of user fees.
AOPA supports the current system of excise taxes on aviation users as the most efficient method of financing the FAA and firmly opposes replacing excise taxes with user fees. AOPA believes there is a fundamental role for air traffic control in air safety, and maintaining the current system preserves the link between aviation safety regulation and air traffic control.