EAA Challenges FAA Fee Policy

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EAA says it's wondering why the FAA billed it $450,000 for air traffic services at last year's AirVenture when the NFL won't have to pay the extra costs associated with the Super Bowl. On Sunday, the FAA told AVweb that it only bills for services if it has to move equipment and personnel to the venue. EAA says it got a different story from FAA officials last summer. "We were working in good faith based on the information we received from the FAA, which was that the Super Bowl/NFL, NASCAR and other major aviation events were all reimbursing the agency for air traffic costs such as overtime, backfill costs and so forth," EAA said in a statement. "The FAA told us those costs were the reason we received the assessments last year." EAA said it's investigating the inconsistency "through a number of channels." Sun 'n Fun paid more than $200,000 for ATC expenses last year and spokeswoman Sandy Bridges said it has "teamed with the State of Florida, the City of Lakeland, the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport and Visit Central Florida to assure that the best quality FAA air traffic controllers are available" for the event, which is the 40th. She did not offer a comment on the NFL news.

Several smaller airshows were also hit with extra ATC costs last year and International Council of Air Shows President John Cudahy said it's particularly galling that a financially able entity like the NFL escapes the fees while non-profit groups struggling to stage community events have to pay. “In the Alice in Wonderland environment in which these ATC decisions are being made, it’s not surprising that the FAA has decided to stop charging fees to the NFL and begin charging fees to non-profit organizations working to hold aviation events in their local communities,” said Cudahy. “The post facto explanations and rationalizations are ridiculous and would be laughable if it weren’t so clear that the FAA intends to defend this contorted logic until they are forced to stop.” After last year's AirVenture, EAA took the FAA to court to try to quash the FAA policy.