AOPA Battles User Fees…

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Input Gathered On FAA Flight Plan

AOPA is repeating its mantra of "no user fees" as the FAA gathers stakeholder input on its next five-year plan. In a letter to the agency, AOPA maintains the so-called Flight Plan, which plots the agency's direction for the coming half decade, has taken a turn toward general aviation user fees, and President Phil Boyer clearly isn't happy about it. "The FAA should never forget that GA is a critical customer -- especially since the GA pilot is the only one who pays the bills out of his own pocket," Boyer said. He said that while the Flight Plan doesn't directly reference user fees, "it certainly lays the groundwork." Boyer said AOPA doesn't believe the current funding structure for the FAA is unsustainable if the agency cuts costs but his suggestion on how that might be achieved might be as controversial as the FAA's seemingly inexorable slide toward user fees. "For example, the recent decision to modernize Flight Service Station operations at lower costs is a model for how they need to act in the future," he said. FSS operations have been contracted out to Lockheed Martin in a program that will result in thousands of job losses and the consolidation of more than half of the existing flight service stations. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey has repeatedly said that air traffic control services will not be privatized but then she doesn't call the FSS process privatization, because the FAA retains overall control and supervision. Instead, it's called competitive outsourcing and it's definitely something the National Air Traffic Controllers Association would have some strong opinions on.