The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association says proposed increases levied only against general aviation hangar rentals at Georgetown Municipal Airport (GTU) in Texas should not be the only means to finance a new air traffic control tower.
"AOPA opposes any increase in fees that unjustly discriminates and singles out one particular category of general aviation users and is not evenly applied to all airport tenants and users," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president for Regional Affairs.
The original proposal would have increased T-hangar rentals alone. A compromise plan charged jet fuel taxes to spread out the financial burden, but even that fell short of equality, AOPA said.
Apparently no additional fees are proposed for fixed-base operators and other airport businesses that would also benefit significantly from the tower, Dunn said.
He pointed to an FAA regulation that says "aeronautical fees may not unjustly discriminate against aeronautical users or user groups" unless the users agree. Dunn's letter stated, "We do not believe that the aeronautical users have otherwise agreed to an uneven rate increase to offset constructions costs."
Another federal regulation says "the cost of facilities not yet built and operating may not be included" in the base rate of airport charges, said Dunn. But the regulations also says airport charges can be subsequently applied to offset the debt and other costs after construction is completed and the facility is put in service.
AOPA encouraged the city to "work closely with all airport tenants in crafting any proposed increase in rents" and spread out costs of a new control tower "evenly among all the users of the airport, preferably based on a formula of their amount of use or benefit they will receive."
If the city does not meet federal mandates, AOPA believes that future federal assistance will be in jeopardy. AOPA is willing to "work with our members and city officials to resolve this issue in a manner that is more in line with federal policy and law," Dunn said.
The 380,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. Nearly two thirds of the nation's pilots are AOPA members, and 26,300 members live in Texas.
AOPA represents the interests of general aviation—all flying except scheduled airlines and the U.S. military. The 221,000 general aviation aircraft in the United States constitute 92 percent of the nation's civilian fleet. General aviation accounts for 60 percent of all hours flown and 80 percent of all takeoffs and landings.