AOPA members are opposed to the idea of a $25 per flight user fee for turbine-powered aircraft, AOPA President Phil Boyer told members of the Senate Commerce Committee in a May 10 letter.
Boyer said that the Aviation Investment and Modernization Act of 2007 (Senate Bill 1300), the Senate's alternative to the onerous taxes and user fees proposed by the FAA in its bill, did address many AOPA members' concerns.
"With that said, AOPA remains very concerned about the precedent-setting introduction of user fees and the impact on our members who fly turbine-engine aircraft," Boyer wrote. Even though piston-engine aircraft would be exempt from the charge, "the majority of AOPA members are opposed to the surcharge, believing that once a user fee or surcharge is introduced, it is only a matter of time before it will apply to them."
Boyer noted the positives in the Senate bill, including increased airport funding and no increase in taxes on aviation gasoline.
He also said that AOPA supports modernization of the air traffic control system but believes that the NextGen program can be paid for through the FAA's existing tax-based financing system.
"As the FAA reauthorization bill moves through the process, we ask that you support efforts, such as an amendment, to address the concerns of pilots by removing the air traffic modernization surcharge from the legislation," Boyer wrote the committee.
Meanwhile on the other side of the Capitol, one member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee took sharp note of the user fee provision in the Senate bill.
"Some people are doing everything they can to advocate for a user fee. I think it's pretty clever what happened over in the Senate," said Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) during an aviation subcommittee hearing on May 9. "Pretty clever to separate the general aviation community.... I hope we don't go down that slope."
Boswell, a pilot, AOPA member, and vocal opponent of user fees, said he did not want to see GA in the United States destroyed by user fees as it has been elsewhere in the world.
The House Transportation Committee will be writing its own FAA funding/reauthorization bill. Differences between the Senate and House bills will ultimately be reconciled in a joint conference committee.
May 10, 2007