FAA Funding Crisis A Hoax(?): AOPA

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AOPA President Phil Boyer says the FAA's justification for imposing user fees is just hot air. Boyer told the American Association of Airport Executives meeting in San Diego last week that, far from going broke, the Airport and Airways Trust Fund is awash in cash and will have billions in the bank in coming years. AOPA says it crunched the numbers using White House estimates and, using its most conservative forecast, predicts the trust fund will have a $4.3 billion surplus by 2011. By its most liberal interpretation, the surplus could reach $9.3 billion. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey says the trust fund, which is derived from a percentage tax on airline tickets, is a declining source of revenue and she wants a revenue stream that's based on the cost of services provided (definition: user fees). But AOPA maintains that, contrary to FAA statements, airfares are on the increase and more people are traveling (hence the trust fund must be getting more money, too). Boyer says the real issue is control and the airlines want it. As the largest contributors to a user-fee system, the airlines would carry most of the clout in decisions regarding function of the air traffic control system. Congress would no longer have oversight because taxes would not be used to fund the system. Boyer said the airlines have proven they can't run their own businesses and they shouldn't be allowed to control the airspace. He also noted that ATC costs in the U.S. are the lowest in the world and the U.S. system is the safest.