Funding Debate Goes To Congress

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After about two years of posturing, the rubber hits the road for the FAA’s attempt to radically change the way it does business this week. On Wednesday, Administrator Marion Blakey will be in front of the aviation subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to defend the agency’s reauthorization proposal. That will be a warm-up for March 21, when she’ll be back in front of the committee promoting her vision of a user-pay system for air traffic control and other services and hefty fuel tax increases for general aviation. AOPA President Phil Boyer will testify at the March 21 hearing to fight the proposal, saying it’s unnecessary from a financial point of view and will seriously harm GA in the U.S. AOPA is pulling out the stops to maintain pressure against the funding changes. Last week it sent aviation reporters advance copies of a scathing assessment of the European user-fee system that will appear in the April edition of AOPA Pilot magazine. The advance look at the story is intended as background for coverage of the committee hearings. The article lists examples of various fees imposed on all levels of GA aircraft. It also chronicles a flight from England to Germany in a Twin Comanche that, despite some questionable maneuvers executed to avoid user fees, costs the aircraft owner $232 in fees and taxes alone. The story also speculates on the impact on training and currency since pilots pay user fees for each landing, including touch and goes.