May 10, 2007
Honorable John Kerry
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
On behalf of the more than 411,000 members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), I am writing to you to share our perspectives on the recently introduced Aviation Investment and Modernization Act of 2007 (S. 1300). This legislation authorizes the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) operations and programs, modernizes the nation's air traffic control system and enhances aviation safety. AOPA appreciates the work of the Committee leadership in crafting the bill.
S. 1300 addresses many of the concerns expressed by AOPA members in response to the FAA's own proposal. Specifically, the bill increases airport improvement funding for local communities through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), maintains the general aviation airport entitlement program, and preserves the 95 percent government share of costs for these grants. Most importantly for general aviation, the recommendation to the Finance Committee is to keep the tax on aviation gasoline at its current rate, rather than the 263 percent increase proposed by the FAA.
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. The bill creates a $25 per flight "Air Traffic Modernization" surcharge. Even though piston engine aircraft are exempt, AOPA members remain opposed to this user fee on principle. Based on a survey conducted last week, 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. This concern is validated by the experiences of aviation communities in other countries, most recently in Canada.
AOPA believes the aviation system should continue to be financed through a combination of aviation taxes and general treasury funds. AOPA supports modernization of the air traffic control system and this can be accomplished through 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.