General aviation and aerial work (GA/AW) operations contribute significantly to world economies and are the foundation of the world's air transportation system, according to a formal paper that the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) will deliver to the upcoming Conference on the Economics of Airports and Air Navigation Services (ANSConf 2000) in Montreal, June 19-28.
"More than 600,000 pilots and 300,000 aircraft engage in GA/AW activities worldwide, comprising the majority of aviation operations," said John Sheehan, IAOPA secretary general. "GA/AW needs must be accommodated by national authorities as they plan and operate aviation infrastructures."
ANSConf 2000, sponsored by the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), will draw hundreds of senior aviation officials from the United States and other nations among ICAO's 185 member countries. Also attending will be airport and air traffic managers, as well as industry representatives.
The conference goals are "to ensure fair access and equity in charging; to promote financial autonomy in the provision of services; to reconfirm responsibilities of States in a changing world."
Two of the stated key issues to be addressed are the economic situation of airports and air navigation service providers, and their financial relationships with airlines and other users.
IAOPA will remind conference delegates that the majority GA/AW flights are conducted for utilitarian purposes, including training airline pilots, emergency medical care air transport, cargo operations, and business aviation supporting national and international commerce.
However, the great majority of worldwide aviation facilities and systems are designed and operated for the benefit of the airlines.
"GA/AW generally operates at the margins of this system, taking advantage of capacity unused by air carriers," said Sheehan. "Any discussion of funding the aviation infrastructure must realize that GA/AW operations command only a small fraction of all services provided."
IAOPA will argue that aviation excise taxes (taxes on fuel, passenger tickets, etc.) are the fairest and most efficient way to fund the aviation infrastructure.
If airports assign aircraft and passenger use fees, they should recognize that GA/AW operations use only a small portion of the infrastructure and cause little maintenance-related expense. Since GA/AW uses only excess capacity and services, GA/AW use fees should reflect only the marginal costs for their operations.
As airport capacity demands increase, airports should first look to improving operational efficiency before imposing capacity controls. Additional runways and taxiways, more efficient air traffic management, land-and-hold-short provisions and land-long techniques for smaller aircraft are examples of ways to increase airport capacity without restricting GA/AW operations.
According to IAOPA, the ultimate and ideal capacity enhancement tool is additional airports. "Strategically located reliever airports relieve capacity pressure on principal international airports, create additional economic centers, and reduce ground transportation congestion within metropolitan areas," said Sheehan.
IAOPA will also tell ICAO that all aviation users should have fair and equal access to air navigation services (ANS), including navigation and communication infrastructures, air traffic control, meteorological services, search and rescue, and aeronautical information services.
ANS should be financed primarily by excise taxes, which do not need a complicated accounting system and are easy to collect. Since basic civic safety and order functions are involved in providing ANS, a portion of a state's general revenues should also be used to create a safe and efficient aviation infrastructure.
IAOPA will argue against direct user charges for ANS. However, if such fees are imposed, they should be graduated and take into consideration the state's obligation to provide basic safety services to the traveling public.
For example, requiring a private pilot to pay a significant fee for a weather and notam briefing and for filing a VFR flight plan may subvert safe operations. That's because a pilot may choose to avoid essential safety services to avoid paying undesirable charges.
"Consideration must be given to providing essential services to GA/AW using tax revenues in support of safe operating practices," Sheehan said.
The IAOPA platform insists on certain fundamentals, Sheehan concluded. "Provision for an ideal aviation infrastructure should adhere to international standards and recommended practices. It should be responsive to user needs. And it should employ cost recovery methods that realistically reflect an equitable assignment to the system users and to the populations that ultimately benefit from a sound and safe air transportation system."
A copy of the "IAOPA Statement Regarding Economics of Airports and Air Navigation Services" is available online.
IAOPA represents the interests of AOPA affiliates in 51 countries, comprising more than 400,000 general aviation and aerial work pilots and aircraft operators. The council was formed in 1962 to provide a voice for general aviation in world aviation forums.
For more information, visit the Web site.
March 3, 2000