FAA's Push For User Fees At AEA

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FAA Administrator Marion Blakey's comments at the Aircraft Electronics Association show was full court press for a user-fee-based and fuel-tax-enriched FAA funding system. Her words seemed particularly stark following AEA past president Monte Mitchell's closing reminder to "take time to compliment a coworker, or give thanks to your friends -- these are the things you remember as you look back on life." Blakey quickly dried every eye in the room with a sandblasting no-nonsense tone that seemed to directly attack outspoken naysayers who have spoken against user-fee plans in the press, but had yet to speak up at the so far warm and welcoming convention. The Administrator offered a stunning spectrum of quote-worthy phrases from "one of the most exciting things for me is when I go to Oshkosh each year" to stating that "Joe Pilot," who owned a very expensive aircraft, would feel a hit to the tune of "four dollars per hour" and was now fighting tooth and nail over a plan that would add to each flight hour the cost "of a Starbucks Latte." (Listen for yourself.)

Saying that the airline passenger is carrying about 95 percent of the associated system cost while imposing about 73 percent of the cost burden, Blakey said it was time for all users to equally share that burden. The operating cost increase Blakey cited corresponds to a 50-cent hike in fuel prices -- assuming your aircraft burns eight gallons per hour -- and would amount to a 5-percent increase in operating costs across the board for general aviation, by her calculations. She said detractors of the user-fee proposal were far off in their representation of the facts and that the current funding system does not provide the capital necessary to allow for long-term strategic/fiscal planning and is therefore stunting technological upgrades and "modernization." Blakey also maintains that "100 percent of our major capital projects are on schedule and on budget." She further threatened that if funding was not made available, "gridlock" would arrive as general aviation's punisher, saying that first-come first-serve would become a thing of the past, and an airliner with 300 passengers aboard will trump a private airplane with three aboard every time. Blakey did not comment on the use of current fuel taxes.