What a difference a decade makes. One of the most out-spoken user fee advocates - the Reason Foundation's Robert Poole - has now decided that VFR general aviation shouldn't be charged user fees for FSS services. In a conversation with AOPA President Phil Boyer, Poole said he doesn't want AOPA battling him this time.
In his latest report, released May 4, Poole recommends that piston-powered GA aircraft pay only an aviation fuel tax. Because the FAA's flight service program is a safety function, "in no cases should there be user fees for those services," he said. Turbine-powered aircraft and commercial airlines would pay user fees for air traffic control services.
Poole's first report, released in 1993, suggested charging GA fees like $9.27 for a weather briefing, $4.65 for contacting a tower, and $9.27 for an IFR flight plan. AOPA soundly criticized that.
So a 1996 report dropped charges for FSS services and proposed user fees for air traffic control services based on aircraft weight and distance flown. AOPA still objected, and Poole notes in his latest report that general aviation is "too large and politically popular" for it to be charged for air traffic control services, regardless of how much of the system GA uses.
"We think he still misses the point," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "GA shouldn't be charged for a system we don't need and for the most part don't use. More than 90 percent of piston-powered aircraft flights are VFR, yet every one of those flights helps pay for the system through the fuel tax. If it weren't for the huge demands the airlines place on the system with their rush-hour scheduling, the air traffic control system would be much smaller."
"While it is great that piston aircraft are not targeted for FSS fees in this report, divide and conquer is a common political strategy," said Boyer. "The threat of GA user fees - and AOPA's willingness to do whatever it takes to stop them - is still very real."
May 6, 2005