Flight Plan Rhetoric Continues User Fee Focus

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The FAA's annual revision of its five-year planning document, called its Flight Plan, continues the much-disputed tack that the existing funding structure for the agency, through the Airway and Airport Trust Fund, is falling short and a new method of funding is needed. AOPA President Phil Boyer said the fund is actually growing but the FAA is under intense pressure from airlines and from within the administration to establish a fee-for-service system. AOPA is also suggesting Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta was a little less than forthcoming when he told those attending his Q&A session at AOPA Expo earlier this month that "From my perspective, it will not be a user fee" that will dig the FAA out of the mire. AOPA lobbyist Andy Cebula said phrases like "from my perspective" are "code words in Washington." So, if we understand the language Mineta and Cebula are speaking, the "code" presumably allowed Mineta to say what people wanted to hear without meaning a word of it. AOPA is also concerned about the FAA's forthcoming decision on the implementation of automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) nationwide. Although AOPA believes in the technology, which allows pilots to independently monitor the position of other ADS-B-equipped aircraft, AOPA would fight any sudden requirement that all aircraft be ADS-B-equipped. "As much as I believe this is the technology of the future, there must be a reasonable phase-in period," Boyer said.