Alliance Takes Aviation User-Fee Fight Beyond Choir

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The Alliance for Aviation Across America announced its arrival on Tuesday morning, launching an effort to expand beyond the aviation community and include small businesses and rural areas in opposition to the FAA's proposed changes to its funding system. "Community airports that serve small towns are critical to our security, our mobility during national emergencies, and to our local economies," said Niel Ritchie, president of the League of Rural Voters, at a press conference. "General aviation is a lifeline. The FAA's proposal would impose severe economic hardship." The new Alliance aims to build support by working to publicize and explain the issues as well as by direct lobbying on Capitol Hill. The group's Web site outlines the issues and invites readers to write to Congress.

Rol Murrow of the Air Care Alliance said that if expenses go up, the first thing many pilots will have to cut are their public-service flights. He added that pilots shouldn't have to make safety-of-flight decisions influenced by cost. Like others at the conference, he emphasized that the FAA's proposal would essentially hand over all power over the air traffic control system to the airlines and the FAA, cutting out GA and Congress. "Any scheme permitting one class of users to run the system is bound to be unfair to all the others," Murrow said. Ken Meade, former inspector general for the Department of Transportation, added that there is no justification for the FAA to propose such a drastic change in its funding mechanism. "I think the FAA has it precisely backwards," he said. "Existing funding streams are more than adequate to support modernization. They should be spending their time defining exactly what this next-generation system is going to be."