Click to download
The FAA's just-released, revised " Flight Plan - 2006-2010" is still improperly focused on user fees, as far as AOPA is concerned. Although the agency did change some of the draft plan based on AOPA comments, the agency continues its claims about a "funding crisis."
"There is a fundamental disagreement between the FAA and AOPA about whether the aviation trust fund is running out of money," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "As I testified before Congress, even the White House Office of Management and Budget is forecasting continued growth in the fund, and the fiscal year 2005 numbers bear this out."
Nevertheless, the FAA Flight Plan - its strategic planning and goal-setting document - says, "A significant gap exists between the tax receipts and what it costs to run the system.... What the FAA needs is a stable funding stream where the cost for a service is reflected in what's charged for the service."
To many observers, that sounds very much like a plea for a "fee for service" system - user fees, in other words. Now, Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta did say at AOPA Expo, "From my perspective, it will not be a user fee. We will rely on the fuel tax...to finance the needs of general aviation."
But said Andy Cebula, AOPA's senior vice president of government and technical affairs and the association's lead lobbyist, "Let me tell you, words like 'from my perspective' are code words in Washington, and the pressure for user fees for everyone from within the administration and from the airlines is intense."
The Flight Plan also ignored the effects of temporary flight restrictions and ADIZ proliferation on GA.
But the Flight Plan did have some good things for GA in it.
The FAA, at AOPA's insistence, acknowledged the improving trend in GA safety. "Through the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Air Safety Foundation, we've made online safety courses available on specific topics, including runway safety, night flying, and mountain flying," the FAA Flight Plan said.
And the agency listened on the GPS wide area augmentation system (WAAS), which brings new utility to GA airports with its low-cost precision approach procedures to almost any runway end. "Customers want us to move faster to develop WAAS approaches for [smaller] airports or allow contractors to develop them. And we are," said the FAA.
And something that will have long-term implications for aircraft owners: The FAA promised it would make a decision about nationwide implementation of automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) by July.
The FAA believes that ADS-B can reduce operational costs as it replaces aging and expensive radar and secondary beacon systems. AOPA is participating in FAA planning activities to ensure that any ADS-B implementation is acceptable to GA.
"As much as I believe this is the technology of the future, there must be a reasonable phase-in period," said Boyer. "We'll never accept the sudden requirement of new equipment as the 'cost of admission' to airspace we're already using."
November 15, 2005