Cessna boss Jack Pelton leads general aviation resistance to new scheme of charging all groups user fees

The trench lines are forming in the battle over who will pay how much of the cost of running the US Federal Aviation Administration and modernising its air-traffic control infrastructure as business and general aviation operators defend their position against the commercial airline industry and a cash-thirsty Bush administration.

As the White House budget office reviews plans to charge all groups through a scheme of user fees, FAA administrator Marion Blakey told its annual aviation forecast conference last week that a new “cost-based revenue structure would be more equitable in terms of aligning user taxes and fee payments with the costs they impose on the system”.

The agency’s revenue comes from “taxes on airline tickets”, she said, “but there is no connection between the price of a commercial airline ticket and the FAA’s workload. We may as well be tied to the price of a gallon of milk.”

Air Transport Association (ATA) president Jim May told the conference that carriers already “are paying the lion’s share” of the trust fund that finances FAA operations. “The FAA’s budget is $14.2 billion, and $12.5 billion comes from the trust fund. Commercial aviation is paying $10 billion of that in taxes and fees.”

May added: “We’ve got to tie fees to the use of the system.”

General aviation is fighting the fee scheme, with the lead being taken by Jack Pelton, president and chief executive of Cessna, the largest GA airframer, and chairman of the US General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA).

He says: “At no point in the last 10 years has FAA funding declined. Congress has ensured that FAA funding levels remained stable or even increased.”

Arguing that the established fuels tax should be kept, Pelton says that the changes under consideration would harm both private aviation and the larger economy. “General aviation should not pay for the costs the airlines impose on the system by putting dozens of aircraft into a single airport within a 15 minute window. Nor should it pay for any other expenses driven by commercial aviation – from which we in general aviation do not derive a clear benefit.”

Details of the ATA’s user fee proposal will be released this week, but it is not known when the White House Office of Management and Budget will clear the administration plan for FAA charges and fees.


Source: Flight International