User-Fee Rhetoric Turned Up

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There are plenty of CEOs who do more than handle the purse strings. Many of them also sit in the left seat of the company plane and AOPA has taken direct aim at them in its latest offensive in the fight against user fees. In a recent edition of Chief Executive magazine, privatization champion Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation wrote a column on his contention that user fees are the most equitable way to fund the aviation system and that airlines should control it. AOPA president Phil Boyer said in a news release that AOPA asked for equal space to rebut Poole but was denied, so the organization bought a full-page ad. Boyer said Poole may have misjudged his audience when he wrote: "Don't let your chauffeurs -- the corporate flight department -- speak for you."

User fees were also a hot topic at the recent National Business Aviation Association convention in Orlando. The heads of every major aviation alphabet group took the stage in a forum on user fees, all of them denouncing what they claim is the clear intention of the airlines to assume control of the airspace. EAA President Tom Poberezny said the divide-and-conquer tactic employed by user-fee advocates, who claim that only business aircraft will be hit by fees, has no credibility with the small-airplane crowd. "And even though they tell us that they are not interested in user fees for other general aviation aircraft, we know they will come after the rest of general aviation next," Poberezny told the forum. The funding structure of the FAA is up for reauthorization next year and the current system of ticket taxes on airlines and fuel taxes for GA aircraft will expire. NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen told the forum that in 1997, the last time the funding reauthorization came up, so-called legacy carriers tried to manipulate the system to squeeze out budget carriers. Apparently they've agreed to let bygones be bygones for the next round. "This time, it's circle the wagons at the airlines and come after general aviation," Bolen said.