Feb. 5, 2004 - Pilots will not face air traffic control user fees during the next fiscal year if Congress adopts the budget proposal that the White House sent to Capitol Hill this week. There's no mention of such fees in the FAA's portion of the proposal.
"AOPA has fought for years to make sure that pilots are not charged for access to the ATC system," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "GA pilots already help fund ATC operations through the aviation fuel tax. They should not have to pay extra to use the system."
The proposal also fully funds the FAA's Airport Improvement Program, despite tight economic times. The program helps pay for projects that range from building hangars to adding runways.
"Full funding for airports at a time when many other domestic programs are being cut just proves the wisdom of working with Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) several years ago to unlock the aviation trust fund," said Boyer. "But we also know that a lot can happen between the time the President proposes spending money and Congress actually appropriates it. So AOPA will continue to work daily on Capitol Hill to protect GA's interests."
AOPA is concerned, though, about a nearly $400 million cut in funding for air traffic control and related facilities and technology. The cut would have no effect on day-to-day operations but opens a debate over ATC modernization priorities.
"AOPA's job will be to make sure that general aviation needs are funded," said Boyer.
Specifically, general aviation pilots should know that implementation of the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), which is the program that could lead to ILS-like GPS approaches at hundreds of airports where precision approaches are not available or possible today, is funded. However, the projections for future years contain no specific dollar amount for WAAS.
Funding for the OASIS weather system that incorporates new computer systems for flight service stations has been cut in half. That means that fewer flight service stations would get access next year to technology that could help them give improved briefings.
OASIS replaces the FAA's existing Automated Flight Service Station Model 1 computer system and provides long overdue improvements by integrating flight data processing with upgraded weather graphics. When fully implemented, OASIS will eliminate many current system deficiencies and provide a Windows-based, expandable platform for supporting future services. The better information means pilots can get better weather briefings.
"The equipment flight service station personnel are forced to work with is already antiquated," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula. "They need access to OASIS technology so they can better serve the needs of pilots."