AOPA on May 22 denounced an FAA plan to charge the Experimental Aircraft Association for the travel costs, per diem expenses, and overtime pay of the air traffic controllers it deploys to staff EAA AirVenture, the association’s annual aviation fly-in, expo, and airshow, which is also the largest gathering of civil aircraft in the world.
“This is extremely troubling news,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “We’ve warned that the Obama administration wants to hit general aviation with user fees, and that’s exactly what it’s doing to the EAA and AirVenture. To depart from previous practice suggests that the FAA has entered a new, pay-as-you-go era with little regard for safety. General aviation already pays for FAA services through substantial fuel taxes. These user fees—there is no other word for them—are a double taxation.”
The FAA has traditionally incurred the costs of deploying controllers to EAA AirVenture, which attracts more than 10,000 aircraft. The new charges were announced after the administration and FAA recently attempted to close some of its most efficient control towers as part of budget sequestration. Congress objected and provided additional funding for the towers.
“These sorts of user fees will stymie a vibrant, innovative general aviation industry that is just starting to realize economic recovery,” Fuller said. “This administration seems to feel that it can tax and impose additional fees without consequence. But these tactics will ground dozens of pilots and planes, eliminate jobs, and diminish GA’s contribution to our economy.”
AOPA has successfully fought a number of previous attempts to impose user fees against its nearly 400,000 members. User fees have again been included in the Obama administration’s latest proposed annual budget, and AOPA is already working to defeat that proposal.
A bipartisan group of 223 members of Congress recently signed a letter to the president opposing such fees. Congress has repeatedly defeated previous user fee proposals.