User Fees Looming?

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FAA Forecast Meeting Carries Hints

Could the United States soon join the majority of countries in which pilots and/or aircraft owners are charged user fees to fund airspace, airport and navigation operation and infrastructure? From the way senior government officials were talking at the FAA's 30th Annual Forecast Conference in Washington, things could be moving in that direction. With the agency predicting a 45-percent increase in air travel in the next 10 years and the federal government in need of controlling its spiraling debt, the FAA would appear to be running out of palatable choices. "Our workload goes up, our revenue goes down," FAA Administrator Marion Blakey remarked. "We need a revenue stream based both on our costs and on our actual units of production." Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta also talked of the need for a "new revenue stream" (not increases in the old revenue streams, a new revenue stream). "Not on our watch," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. Boyer said Blakey seems to have softened here stance on the potential for user fees for GA since she declared, at last October's AOPA Expo, that "the FAA doesn't support a fee-based system." On Thursday, she said: "I'm not at this point advocating user fees." Boyer said user fees are a hot-button issue among AOPA members. "The members are very clear," he told reporters. "No user fees. We've heard them and you'll continue to hear from us."