The most important issue to face the aviation industry in generations reached a milestone this week with the Bush administration's unveiling of its FAA reauthorization proposal. As the debate about how the air transportation system will be funded in the future heats up, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has created a Web page to inform its nearly 411,000 members and the general public about how the issue affects them.
"There is no bigger issue facing general aviation today. Our future is being held hostage to the FAA funding decision," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "If we choose user fees or radical new taxes, America's unique personal aircraft transportation system could die."
The new Web page is at www.aopa.org/FAAFundingDebate/ and explains the many onerous facets of the proposed FAA funding including the threat posed by higher taxes and user fees. The FAA's funding expires on September 30, 2007. By that date, Congress must either reauthorize the current funding system, create a new user fee-based system, or create a system that combines the two.
"Our new Web page is an effective primer for anyone wanting to understand how the FAA funding issue affects them," said Jeff Myers, AOPA executive vice president of communications. "We explore the arguments for change and objectively demonstrate why our current tax system is the best choice by far."
The new Web page includes short videos to help explain the issue. It will be regularly updated as the FAA funding debate progresses through the legislative process.
For nearly 40 years, excise taxes on general aviation fuel, airline passenger tickets, and cargo have been deposited into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund to pay for airport improvements, air traffic control modernization, and other essential aviation projects. The FAA and airlines argue that the FAA should be funded through user fees for air traffic control (ATC) and other services. Doing so would eliminate Congress's role in allocating the funds for FAA programs and providing management guidance and oversight. AOPA opposes a user fee system and supports the existing excise tax system as the best way to continue to fund the system.
A user fee-based system - as it already has in numerous countries throughout the world - would have a negative impact on safety by requiring general aviation pilots to pay for such essential safety-related services as weather briefings and air traffic control assistance in bad weather. General aviation flights include missions that are essential to our national economy such as disaster relief, medical evacuation, and agricultural flying.
With almost 411,000 members, representing nearly two-thirds of all pilots in the United States, AOPA is the largest, most influential aviation association in the world. AOPA has achieved its prominent position through effective advocacy, enlightened leadership, technical competence, and hard work. Providing member services that range from representation at the federal, state, and local levels to legal services, advice, and other assistance, AOPA has built a service organization that far exceeds any other in the aviation community.
February 15, 2007