The budget plan released by the White House this week drops last year's proposal to impose aviation user fees, and instead retains the traditional FAA funding formula of taxes on tickets and fuel plus a general-fund contribution. "We have waged a 12-month campaign since the moment we learned of a planned $9.6 billion fee," AOPA President Craig Fuller said on Monday. "General aviation organizations worked together to prevent the realization of a policy that could have crippled GA." Other advocacy groups expressed similar relief, while noting that the budget addresses the issue only for the next fiscal year. "The industry must remain vigilant to ensure that any future user fee proposals are unsuccessful," said James Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association. Ed Bolen, president of NBAA, also advised caution. "Whether or not this is an indication of a permanent policy shift on user fees, or a one-time development remains to be determined," he said. "Our industry must continue to make its voice heard on this and other issues."
The administration's budget request, according to AOPA, includes $16.5 billion for the FAA in fiscal year 2011, a 3-percent increase over 2010. Out of that total, $1.1 billion would go for NextGen air transportation system modernization, a 32-percent increase over last year. Those funds would help to support the transformation from a radar-based system to a space-based system, the development of more efficient air traffic routes, and the improvement of aviation weather information for pilots. The funding also includes $3.4 billion for the Airport Improvement Program and $2 million for research and development of alternative fuels for GA. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association noted that the proposal would extend bonus depreciation for GA aircraft sales and increase funding to hire additional FAA safety inspectors. On the military side, the budget would increase spending for drone aircraft and drop Boeing's C-17 cargo aircraft program.