...Amid Some Gambles...

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Yet, some rocky weather may loom on the industry's horizon. On the convention's opening day, NBAA saw fit to release the results of a study it funded that concluded the business aviation community pays more than 100 percent of its share of the costs it imposes on the federal air traffic system. The study, by consulting firm HLB Decision Economics Inc. [PDF], shows that the business aviation community paid $188 million in federal excise taxes as its share of federal aviation costs in fiscal year 2001. That amount is 102 percent, or $4 million, more than the cost identified by the FAA in fiscal year 2001, the last for which data is available. While the study's results are good news, NBAA's own press release notes "the debate about cost responsibility [in the U.S.] has dragged on for decades." What the press release did not note is that the concept that general and business aviation pay their "fair share" is under greater assault than ever, with cash-strapped airlines pointing fingers and government agencies looking for new revenue sources. Still, Bolen concluded that the "study refutes recent suggestions that the general and business aviation community does not pay its fair share of the costs of operating the nation's air traffic control system. Not only does business aviation pay what it owes, it actually pays more." According to NBAA, the study's results also reject the FAA's calculations assigning cost responsibility, which the association says have varied widely for years. The association noted that "a sizeable amount" of "common costs" are incurred on behalf of all users, including commercial airlines and the military.