By Warren D. Morningstar
Some 1,200 pilots from the Pacific Northwest learned on Feb. 23 the latest in the user fee battle from AOPA President Phil Boyer at the Northwest Aviation Conference in Puyallup, Wash.
Watch a video of Senator Murray’s speech at the Northwest Aviation Conference
In his eighteenth appearance before the annual convention, Boyer noted that the general aviation industry continues to battle the big airlines, Bush White House, the FAA, and “one powerful senator.” They are all pushing to increase the cost of flying for general aviation and to impose user fees.
“But we also have some powerful allies on our side,” said Boyer. “Influential members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate who are willing to stand with us against user fees.”
Among the members of the Senate in position to influence the final outcome of the FAA funding issue is Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who is chairman of the transportation subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. She spoke to the audience in a recorded video presentation.
“Rest assured, Phil has already shared pilots’ concerns with me, and I get it. No new user fees.” But she did note that the FAA funding issue is “complicated” and that there are “strong philosophical beliefs about how we should fund the FAA as we look toward the future,” which would require “constructive negotiations and compromises” to bring a bill to a vote before the full Senate.
Murray criticized the Bush administration’s “short-sighted proposal” to cut Airport Improvement Program grants by $765 million. “I believe we must continue to invest in our infrastructure, and this includes our airports,” said Murray. “I often have to remind my colleagues that this program isn’t just about building runways at our busiest airports, it’s about making sure that our small- and medium-sized airports are safe and up to date, too.”
On the issue of NextGen, Sen. Murray explained that modernizing the air traffic control system is a top priority. “I believe that the system must be accessible and affordable for all users. We won’t see the safety benefits if many of the users can’t afford it,” she said.
February 26, 2008