The current system of funding the Federal Aviation Administration works. The proposed system doesn't. The government itself says so.
"So which funding system is 'broken?'" wondered AOPA President Phil Boyer.
The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation says that as long as Congress continues to pay for part of the FAA out of general tax funds, the current system can fully fund modernization efforts. The managing director of physical infrastructure for the Government Accountability Office says the proposed funding plan, which also calls for general tax fund contributions, can't unless it incurs debt.
FAA Administrator Marion Blakey has spent the last two years pushing for a radical change in how the agency is funded, claiming that the current system is broken and unable to pay for the modernization of the air traffic system that everyone in aviation agrees is necessary.
"We now know the Bush administration's proposal is to increase taxes on general aviation and impose user fees on every segment of aviation," said Boyer. "Airlines will pay fees to talk to air traffic control; general aviation will pay to access 'congested airspace'; airframe manufacturers will pay higher fees to certify their aircraft; and pilots will pay much more for medical and pilot certificates.
"And still, the proposed scheme falls hundreds of millions of dollars short of what the current system would raise each year."
AOPA conducted detailed financial analysis of the FAA's current funding structure, using figures from the administration's Office of Management and Budget and assuming a 21.5 percent contribution from general tax revenues - in line with historical levels and just two-and-a-half percent more than the FAA's assumption. The analysis determined that the current system could provide some $20 billion over the next five years to pay for the Next Generation Air Traffic System, as the modernization project is known.
"Once again, AOPA's analysis has been verified by the federal government," said Boyer. "This is just more proof that the way we pay for the safest, most efficient air transportation system in the world works. There is no need to shift to a system that starts us down the road toward privatizing an inherently governmental function."
With more than 410,000 members, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest aviation association. AOPA is committed to working with the FAA to find the most efficient ways to modernize air traffic control while at the same time protecting pilots from a user fee-based system that will inevitably stifle general aviation as it has in the rest of the world.
March 9, 2007