Business aviation interests have been victorious in their battles over the years to prevent the creation of general aviation user fees to replace the current fuel tax to pay for their share of ATC services. But at last month’s NBAA Convention business aviation trade group leaders warned that this time the battle is different and could be the toughest yet.
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
The National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) is urging Congress to resist all attempts to “raid” the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, including airline industry calls for new tax breaks, and the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) reiterated its preference for having general aviation contribute to the fund through taxes on aviation fuels.
As the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) mounted a “national pilot alert” against the proposed permanent air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the Washington, D.C. area, general aviation received another black eye when a 22-year-old commercial-rated pilot allegedly stole a Citation VII and took it on a 350-mile joyride from St. Augustine Airport in Florida to Gwinnett County-Briscoe Field (LZU) in Lawrenceville, Ga.
Like the flu and other nasty bugs, the user-fee virus is making its periodic appearance as Congress considers FAA reauthorization, up for renewal in 2007. This cycle’s strain, however, appears to be particularly virulent.
It was 25 years ago last month that New York Yankees team captain Thurman Munson was killed in the crash of his Cessna Citation I. The accident remains one of the most significant in general aviation, especially among those who fly their own turbine-powered aircraft for business, pleasure or both.
As the presidential election heated up last month, the blood pressures of many general aviation pilots rose faster than the campaign rhetoric as they attempted to stay abreast of changing temporary flight restrictions (TFRs).
The California legislature didn’t transfer $745,000 left over from last year’s aeronautical budget into the general fund, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had proposed, according to AOPA. Over the last two years, some $10.8 million of aeronautics funding was lost to the general fund to bring down the state’s massive budget deficit.
The libertarian Reason Foundation, which has been promoting privatization for more than 25 years, has published a new study calling for a user-fee system to fund the nation’s ATC. The proposal envisions a user-fee structure that exempts piston-powered general aviation aircraft.
Calls to institute user fees to help pay for FAA expenditures in the future continue to generate little support in Congress, as evidenced by a hearing before the House aviation subcommittee early last month.
Mary Peters, who was head of the Federal Highway Administration from 2001 to 2005, is President Bush’s nominee for the post of Secretary of Transportation. If confirmed by the Senate, she will replace Norman Mineta, who resigned in June.