User Fees, ATC Privatization Coming Back To Congress
The debates over user fees and ATC privatization are coming back to the forefront as Congress settles into its second session. The impetus this week came from a piece in Politico by U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican whose district covers Wichita. The proposals are brewing in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as part of the FAA reauthorization bill that’s in the works for 2016, he wrote. “Unfortunately, recent draft outlines of legislation would unduly burden the general aviation community. Most concerning is a proposal to add to or replace the current fuel tax system with user fees in order to finance a new air traffic regulator that would be run by a board of aviation interest groups.”
GA organizations have already rallied against privatization, which would put airspace management under a not-for-profit company. It also would make user fees the likely source of funding, rather than fuel taxes. Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, favors the idea along with a number of airline companies. The fight against user fees will continue, Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs, told AVweb via email. “AOPA is opposed to all user fees and is focused on protecting general aviation for today and tomorrow's pilots. We believe the FAA can be more efficient, especially in terms of certification and regulation and will comment on any legislative proposals when they are released,” he said.
EAA Chairman and CEO Jack Pelton said he’s concerned about any such proposals and sees more than the threat of fees. “The current fight against ATC privatization is about who gets to control the national airspace system,” he said in a statement. “Any privatized system will not be governed by the principles of equal access currently defended by the FAA but rather by who has the greatest financial impact. In a privatized system where the major economic and political players would be the airlines and massive tech and retail companies desiring airspace for drone operations, personal and recreational aviation would have little chance for long-term survival.”