Fact sheet issued by agency designed to counteract 'misinformation' from the GA sector about proposal

The US Federal Aviation Administration is attempting to heal a rift with the general aviation community over the proposed restructuring of the agency's air traffic management revenue sources that could go live as early as this autumn. Under the current system, various taxes generate about 80% of the agency's $14 billion yearly budget, but the government wants a scheme based on user charges.

The agency last week released a "fact sheet" designed to dispel what officials claim is misin-formation from the GA sector about the proposal, which would replace the current airline ticket tax, segment fee and aviation fuel tax with terminal and en route service fees based on time in the air traffic management system (see box below).

In return, the FAA is promising a more stable revenue stream that will enable the agency to build the next-generation satellite-based ATM system.

Key GA trade groups, including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, National Business Aviation Association and Alliance for Aviation Across America, have motivated members to demand that US lawmakers scrap the legislation, saying GA pilots will pay more than their fair share under the new system.

The Alliance for Aviation Across America, a grouping of GA advocacy organisations, says the FAA's "own documents" show that GA already contributes 8.6% of the taxes. "This proposal is about reducing the tax burden on airlines and shifting it on to small planes," it adds.

Pilot discontent with the FAA's proposal peaked at the annual Sun 'n' Fun GA gathering in Lakeland, Florida last month, where AOPA says more than 10,000 pilots signed a petition condemning the user fee proposal. The FAA attended the same event and handed out its fact sheets. "The GA pilot community was out there with a lot of misinformation on this," says the agency.


How the charges would work

Under the new system, user charges would apply to airlines, and to operators of business jets and turboprops in the charter, air-taxi and fractional sectors, which now pay a fuel tax of $0.06/litre ($0.22/USgal).

Pilots of piston-powered aircraft would continue paying via the fuel tax, but the amount would increase substantially, from about $0.5/litre today to roughly $0.18/litre.

The FAA argues that general aviation (including business aviation) contributes 3% of the taxes supporting the airport and airways trust fund, but accounts for 16% of the costs. "The bottom line is that, under the current system, the family of four taking a budget vacation [on the airlines] is subsidising the chief executive's flying on a corporate jet," the Federal Aviation Administration says. "Reducing the current GA subsidy may result in some rationalisation of behaviour, but we do not believe the changes will be dramatic."

Under the new plan, the agency says, GA would pay 11% of the fees, although 10% of the amount would come from "jets and other high performance aircraft".

Source: Flight International