A broad coalition has formed to support general aviation in its FAA funding battle. It's called the Alliance for Aviation Across America, and it's composed of rural, agricultural, and charitable organizations; local government; small businesses; and aviation professionals.
The coalition formed to fight the airline- and FAA-backed legislation that would dramatically increase general aviation fuel taxes, charge user fees to most aviation segments, and significantly reduce the airlines' financial contribution toward the FAA's costs. The coalition is also dedicated to properly modernizing the air traffic control system.
"Our coalition is here to send a clear message to lawmakers that we stand united against a radical 'user fee' proposal, which would decimate businesses and communities around our country through a huge tax hike," said Gene Wright, mayor of Quinwood, West Virginia. "This special interest legislation would benefit no one but the big commercial airlines."
Alliance for Aviation Across America members include the League of Rural Voters, National Farmers Union, National Association of State Aviation Officials, Air Care Alliance, National Agricultural Aviation Association, National Business Aviation Association, Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic, AOPA, and hundreds of small- and medium-sized businesses around the country.
"AOPA is pleased to support the alliance," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "All of our more than 411,000 AOPA members are already Alliance members as a result of their participation in AOPA."
During a press conference on April 10 announcing the Alliance, Boyer said, "This alliance goes beyond the aviation community."
He noted that the lineup of members demonstrated how smaller communities depend upon GA, unlike the "30 large cities that the airlines have found most attractive for their hub-and-spoke system."
"Since we were abandoned by the airlines after deregulation, rural communities have come to depend on general aviation for business, medical care, and disaster relief," said Niel Ritchie, executive director of the League of Rural Voters. "The gas tax increases are going to end up grounding a lot of the small planes that are the lifelines to these communities."
"If costs go up, volunteer services are likely the first to be cut, especially in the smaller remote communities that the airlines do not serve," said Rol Morrow, president of Air Care Alliance, a broad-based league of nonprofit public benefit flying organizations whose members volunteer their aircraft for free patient transport and disaster relief.
"We have a lot of doctors who fly throughout our region, and their services are going to be severely impacted by increased taxes and costs. Some have told me they would have to cut their travel to small communities by 50 percent," Mayor Wright added.
Responding to a question about whether the FAA funding system should remain unchanged, Boyer said, "Status quo is not an option, but neither is the draconian idea of completely turning around the system with a user-fee-based scenario.
"The airlines have taken a lot of taxpayer money already," he said, referring to post-9/11 and pension bailouts, "and we say enough is enough. Let's not look to general aviation for another airline bailout."
April 11, 2007