Pro-User-Fee Effort Targets Business Aviation

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The application of user fees may come down to a definition of general aviation. Those who speak in favor of fees (generally airline representatives) usually point to business aircraft as examples of how unfairly treated the airlines (which normally carry hundreds more passengers per plane) are and American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey was beating that drum at an Executives' Club of Chicago luncheon last week. In fact, he said, airlines are subsidizing other industries through the current tax system, which he says results in airlines picking up 90 percent of air traffic control costs even though they generate only about two-thirds of the traffic. "Crazy as it sounds, under the current system, the airlines -- one of our country's most important, but least healthy industries -- are actually subsidizing the corporate travel of other -- presumably much healthier -- entities, as well as individuals who can afford their own jets," Arpey is quoted by the Chicago Sun-Times as saying. Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association, said the issue is more complex than a simple mathematical equation. Bolen told the Sun-Times that the air traffic control system is designed to cope with the airlines' hub-and-spoke system, which concentrates very high traffic levels in certain areas at certain times. He said it's unfair to expect others to pay an equal share of the costs for intensely crowded corridors and airports they mostly probably avoid. "The controllers are not there because of business aviation," Bolen said. "The problem is 50 [airliners] all departing O'Hare at 9 o'clock." Bolen will be the keynote speaker at NBAA's Washington, D.C., Regional Forum to be held on June 8, 2006, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. EDT at the Landmark Aviation site at Washington Dulles International Airport and user fees will undoubtedly be on the list of "proposals being debated in the federal policy arena" that he'll be discussing.