AOPA fired another salvo against user fees, this time in Alaska. In a field hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee meeting in Anchorage, AOPA Alaska Regional Representative Tom George said, "Many of us in Alaska are questioning why Washington would totally change the effective mechanism that currently funds the safest, most efficient system in the world? Without Congress acting as the FAA's board of directors, Alaska's needs are likely to be shortchanged."
AOPA has long maintained that changing the current FAA funding system to a user fee system as proposed by the airlines and the Bush administration would harm general aviation pilots and the general public.
"Everyone benefits from the aviation system, whether or not they actually fly," George reminded the Commerce Committee, which currently is the responsible Senate committee for legislation determining how much the FAA may spend and in what areas.
Because everyone benefits from aviation, it's only appropriate that all taxpayers share in some of FAA's expenses. "Everyday deliveries of goods and services, medical services and supplies, mail delivery, and other everyday needs are all dependent on a viable air transportation system," said George.
AOPA also criticized the Bush administration for cutting airport funding by nearly $1 billion, with the impact being the greatest on general aviation airports. "The stakes are high for Alaska's pilots, and this is one of AOPA's top priorities for 2006 - we urge you to fund the Airport Improvement Program at $3.7 billion," George told the committee.
He noted the tremendous success of the FAA's ADS-B demonstration program in Alaska - Capstone - and how it has contributed to a remarkable safety improvement.
George also expressed the association's concern over expanding UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) operations in civilian airspace and the threat they might present to other aircraft.
"The FAA must develop standards to certify UAVs to the same level of safety as piloted aircraft," George said. "Failure to do so could further isolate Alaskan residents from the basic necessities needed to survive."
July 6, 2006