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US aviation community fights new user fee proposal

A familiar backlash from the aviation community has already greeted the Obama Administration’s latest proposal to add a $100 surcharge for each flight on most users of the air traffic system.

For the sixth year in a row, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) says it will rally members and congressional allies to defeat the proposal contained in the Fiscal 2015 budget request for the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The proposed surcharge particularly targets the NBAA’s membership, as it exempts piston-powered aircraft and applies only to turbine-powered aircraft flown for commercial and private reasons.

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association president Mark Baker released a statement arguing that a $100 surcharge on each flight could “cripple” the general aviation industry.

“We are working hard to make general aviation more accessible and affordable, and whether you call it a user fee or a surcharge, we will keep fighting against proposals like this that would raise the cost of flying.” Baker says.

The Obama Administration’s budget request says the proposed surcharge would raise $967 million in Fiscal 2015, accounting for nearly 16% of the FAA proposed $15.4 billion budget request.

Despite the potential new income, the FAA budget request is 2.55% lower than the Fiscal 2014 enacted budget of $15.8 billion.

The FAA is facing severe financial pressures, as it struggles to balance a $5 billion backlog of deferred maintenance on its existing infrastructure while it seeks to introduce the NextGen air traffic system modernization programme.

The FAA budget request includes $774 million next year for NextGen, or $54 million less than the programme received this year.

The FAA also is proposing to reduce the grants-in-aid programme to airports by $450 million. The remaining $2.9 billion would be focused on supporting general aviation airports that lack access to other sources of revenue than government grants, the FAA says.

The agency can again expect to face strong opposition from the aviation community, which has successfully lobbied against imposing user fees or surcharges since 2010.

“I know that if our business aviation community continues to let Congress and our state and local officials know of our concerns,” says NBAA president Ed Bolen, “we will be able to continue ensuring that our unified voice is heard.”

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