"I can't thank our members enough," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We asked a very small fraction of our membership to write selected members of the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
"AOPA members responded by the thousands with well-reasoned, well-written, and heartfelt letters explaining what a nearly fourfold increase in avgas taxes would do to their flying and to general aviation."
The Bush administration's FAA funding bill would increase avgas taxes from 19.4 to 70.1 cents per gallon, charge GA aircraft fees to fly in Class B airspace, and increase fees for other FAA services.
"Increasing taxes on the small users of the aviation system will begin a 'death spiral' that cannot be recovered from," wrote one member to Rep. James P. McGovern (R-Mass.). A recent immigrant from Canada, he said that higher taxes and user fees had killed GA up north. "I could never become a pilot in Canada because the system and infrastructure of general aviation simply no longer exist there!"
A high school senior and flight student told Rep. Charles Dent (R-Pa.), "If this new funding system is adopted, general aviation and the source for younger professional pilots would slowly die away. My flying lessons would be put on hold because I would no longer be able to pay for my lessons."
An airplane pilot told Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), "Increased fuel taxes and cost related to air traffic control services would cause enough pilots to quit flying that it would start a downward economic cycle. Airplanes would be parked. Aviation service providers would lose customers and begin to fail. Jobs would be lost."
And he added that the tax increase would make it hard for the airlines to find new pilots. "It costs an aspiring airline pilot $70,000 or more to train to reach the FAA-mandated minimum experience...The proposed fuel taxes and user fees would effectively double the cost of training $150,000.... It would be impossible for enough pilots to train for [airline jobs] if these fees are enacted."
A Virginia business owner told Rep. Thelma Drake (R-Va.) that the proposed fuel tax could "ground our new start-up company.... This proposal is a direct threat to future hiring and growth opportunities for our company."
"I am concerned that the airline industry, in an attempt to improve their bottom lines and to offset costs, is pressuring Congress to implement a fee-based system on general aviation activities," wrote another member to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). "As a very long time pilot (I learned to fly in the USAF in 1960, and still fly today) and one who has used the European system as a GA aviator, I can assure you that the implementation of that kind of system will spell the end of GA as Americans know it."
Boyer said, "These kind of letters - with specific information and written from the heart - cannot help but have an impact on members of Congress who haven't already set their positions on the FAA funding bill.
"As the time is appropriate, we will be asking more of our members to contact specific senators and congressmen as we continue to fight against this proposal that could kill general aviation."
February 28, 2007