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Michigan updates aeronautics code

AOPA is advising on updates and needed changes to the Michigan Aeronautics Code, as well as suggesting reasonable and comparable pricing for aircraft registration fees.

Photo by Chris Rose.

The Michigan Department of Transportation has put together an ad hoc committee to update language in the code, including adjustments to the airport licensing criteria and funding priorities within the department. As part of this committee, AOPA will review proposed changes and provide feedback on any impacts, positive or negative, on pilots and aircraft owners.

Aircraft registration fees vary state by state. Some, like Michigan, charge aircraft registration on a per-pound basis and since 1948, the price for aircraft registration in Michigan has been 1 cent per pound. For a Cessna 172—a popular, lightweight, four-seat aircraft—this amounts to a nearly $26 registration fee. However, a draft legislative proposal from Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer would raise this registration fee to 10 cents per pound—a $255.80 fee for the same Cessna 172.

AOPA supports updates to this “penny per pound” fee calculation so Michigan can continue to generate revenue and provide funding for infrastructure and programs in the aeronautical system. However, AOPA is strongly advising the department that the proposed fee increase is concerning when compared to other states in the region. In neighboring Ohio, the same Cessna 172 would be charged a $60 registration fee, based on that state's $15 per seat charge. Wisconsin’s weight-based fee would amount to $70; Indiana charges $10 regardless of weight or seat number; and New York and Pennsylvania currently do not charge aircraft registration fees.

AOPA contends that Michigan’s proposed tenfold increase would cause the state to have the highest weight-based fees in the region and would harm Michigan’s aviation system. The increase could incentivize pilots to register their aircraft in neighboring states with lower aircraft registration fees. Additionally, the draft legislation does not include language that would mandate these registration fees to go to aeronautical expenditures in Michigan, a concerning oversight. Currently, registration fees collected are used for airport improvement projects administered by Michigan DOT.

In a January 28 email to Michigan state Sen. Veronica Klinefelt (D-District 11), AOPA Great Lakes Regional Manager Kyle Lewis outlined AOPA’s concerns with the fee increase and offered alternative solutions.

“AOPA would propose that a fee increase be reasonable, justifiable, and comparable to surrounding states to maintain a healthy aviation ecosystem in Michigan,” wrote Lewis. “AOPA would support a phased fee increase proposal or flat rate fees based on weight categories. AOPA would also like to see a policy that would require the revenue generated from these specific fees to be specified for aviation-related capital improvement projects in Michigan.”

The draft legislation for the change has not yet been introduced, but AOPA remains active in its advocacy for aircraft owners and their right to fair and reasonable fees.

Lillian Geil

Communications Specialist
Communications Specialist Lillian Geil is a student pilot and a graduate of Columbia University who joined AOPA in 2021.

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