BizAv Gets Behind NGATS

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Can the general and business aviation industry have the cake of a Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) without having to "eat" user fees, too? Perhaps it can, if refinement of positions taken recently by NBAA and AOPA on pending legislation to reauthorize the FAA and install a user-fee scheme is any indication. In remarks last week at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Aviation Summit, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Ed Bolen discussed several “Next Generation” technologies supported by the general aviation community, specifically highlighting automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) while reminding attendees that a new funding structure, like the FAA's proposed user fees, was not necessary for modernization. Similarly, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) President Phil Boyer, who co-chairs an industry panel tasked with advising the group overseeing NGATS development, recently remarked on his "huge involvement and enthusiasm in seeing to it that NextGen happens." These comments by Bolen and Boyer appear to be the latest attempts to "de-link" the FAA's user-fee plans and NGATS. And they have company.

According to NBAA, an official with the Congressional Budget Office told the House Subcommittee on Aviation last October that the balance in the Aviation Trust Fund is "expected to continue increasing at a pace that could fully support the proposed FAA air traffic control modernization plan without the need for new user fees or other taxes." Further, again according to NBAA, the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General agreed, last month telling a Congressional subcommittee, "the current financing mechanism could support both FAA’s ongoing funding requirements and the potential cost of developing the next generation air traffic control system (NextGen), assuming revenue projections materialize.” Further, and as the news item below notes, the U.S. Government Accountability Office also agrees that NGATS can be financed without user fees, thereby removing several pieces from the FAA's user fee "house of cards." Bolen summed it up: “People need to understand that aviation system modernization must be a national priority, but user fees are a separate and unrelated issue.”