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Keep user fees out of the 2009 FAA budget, AOPA saysKeep user fees out of the 2009 FAA budget, AOPA says

Keep user fees out of the 2009 FAA budget, AOPA says

By AOPA ePublishing staff

Although the U.S. Senate has yet to pass final FAA funding legislation, the agency’s bills still have to be paid.

So, the congressional committees that actually write the annual check have started working on the FAA’s budget for 2009, assuming that when the time comes the money will be there. And AOPA has strong opinions on what should be in that budget.

First and foremost, no user fees.

“AOPA supports language prohibiting the FAA from finalizing or implementing any regulation that would promulgate new aviation user fees not specifically authorized by law,” AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote in letters to the leaders of the appropriations transportation subcommittees in both the House and Senate. (AOPA has successfully lobbied for such a prohibition in previous appropriations bills to block the FAA from implementing “back door” user fees.)

Boyer told lawmakers that AOPA members also want Congress to make sure that the FAA stays on top of the automated flight service station system with an aggressive quality assurance program. Noting that the contractor-run system had been plagued with system outages, excessive hold times, lost flight plans, dropped calls, and poor quality service, Boyer said, “Unfortunately, some of these problems persist today—there was another system outage on Feb. 6, 2008.”

Airports should get all of the funding allowed by law, AOPA said. The Bush administration proposed cutting Airport Improvement Program funding by more than $1 billion in 2009. “Elimination of this funding would adversely affect communities’ ability to maintain and improve their airports,” Boyer told lawmakers.

While AOPA supported funding for continued development of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system, the association told the check writers that the association took strong issue with the FAA’s proposed rule to mandate ADS-B equipage, particularly since under the FAA proposal aircraft owners would have to have both ADS-B and a transponder to continue to fly in Class B airspace. “AOPA requests the subcommittee to direct the FAA to develop a transponder replacement strategy,” wrote Boyer.

AOPA asked Congress to make sure a sufficient amount of money is devoted to adding WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) instrument approaches into GA airports that don’t currently have ILS approaches. The association also supported continued funding for FAA research into technologies to enable existing general aviation engines to operate on unleaded aviation fuel, and asked Congress to direct the FAA to come up with a comprehensive plan to safely integrate unmanned aerial vehicles into the airspace system.

“It’s important that each year we re-communicate general aviation’s priorities to Congress,” said Boyer. “Through the years, Congress has done a good job in balancing the needs of all system users.”

March 6, 2008

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