EAA User-Fee Alert

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When Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta made a veiled reference to user fees in a speech to the Aero Club of Washington last week, alarm bells went off at EAA headquarters in Oshkosh. "EAA has been loud and consistent on this point," said Doug Macnair, EAA's vice president of government relations. "We are categorically opposed to user fees for general aviation, especially since the FAA has not shown effective cost controls or accountability for the capital improvement programs it wants to undertake. The major airlines and commercial operators favor user fees because they hope to offload many of the costs for operations and services on to general aviation, even though the nation's air traffic system is truly designed to serve the air carriers, not general aviation." He added that if the FAA operations budget was properly funded from the general fund as intended, and capital improvements covered by the Aviation Trust Fund, the issue would be resolved. Because the National Airspace System benefits every citizen of the nation whether they fly or not, Congress has long held that the FAA and the upkeep of the infrastructure should be paid from the nation's general fund. In addition, general aviation pilots pay a fuel tax to the Aviation Trust Fund, which is supposedly earmarked for modernization and infrastructure improvements. However, the FAA has been funding its operations budget from the trust fund, draining it of the revenue needed for capital improvements and modernization, EAA said.