GAMA's Bunce: Great Year Ahead For Aviation

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General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) President Pete Bunce emphasized that nearly 30 percent of GA shipments are now exports, and the appetite for aircraft in China, India and Russia will continue to drive revenue. In the meantime, GAMA expects North American air carriers to continue to lose business in small communities in favor of GA, and more corporate operators will seize ongoing advantages in safety, performance, productivity and cost efficiencies. This week, however, the FAA will reveal its complete plan for agency reauthorization and its associated user-fee proposal, and Bunce cautioned that these strong indicators for growth could evaporate if user fees remain a central part, bringing "long-term damage." Bunce has directed GAMA to fight the call by the airlines for user fees based on an aircraft's time in the air traffic control system rather than on its size or its number of departures. "Do we really want to create an IRS within the FAA to collect those fees?" he posed, saying that fuel taxes are a more efficient way to pay. Bunce argued that an FAA budget based on user fees is inherently unstable compared with a regular contribution by the general fund of the treasury, since operations vary with world security, economy and politics. In contrast, Congress continually exceeds every FAA budget request with a more generous general fund contribution, and the Airport and Airway Trust Fund supported by fuel and ticket taxes is expected to grow for at least five years. Bunce said the Bush administration's own estimate for revenue from user fees is $1 billion less than the current mechanism, calling to rally for modernized technologies rather than diverting energy to change a proven approach to funding. GAMA also stated concerns of slowed innovation due to ever lower allowances for basic NASA aerospace research to benefit GA, and a dwindling number of certification engineers. Nonetheless, Dr. John J. Grisik of Goodrich Corp., who's also the current GAMA chairman, cited the growing backlog of orders as the best indicator of near-term strength: "These [shipment and billing] numbers prove that this government has the power to set the conditions for growth."