User Fee Compromise in the Works

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Capitol Hill pundits are predicting the compromise on general aviation user fees that will be sent to Congress will spare the piston crowd any increases, but sock business aviation with charges for their use of the airspace. (Hear what Cessna chairman, CEO and president Jack Pelton has to say about aviation user fees. [3.3MB mp3]) A story in The Hill earlier this week quoted unnamed sources as presenting this scenario. “The piston thing is not going to happen,” the source told The Hill. “I do think there’s significant traction on the whole issue of corporate aircraft.” The story also quotes an internal Air Transport Association memo as conceding that the statistics it has widely used to support the airlines' position on user fees are somewhat skewed. The ATA, the strongest proponent of user fees, has publicly claimed that U.S. airlines pay 95 percent of non-general-fund contributions to the FAA's trust fund through ticket taxes, but The Hill says the internal memo admits that the airline portion is more like 74 percent, with cargo companies and foreign airlines picking up the difference. Meanwhile, there's a furor north of the border as Nav Canada has singled out very light jets for inclusion in its second tier of charges.

Currently, the owner of any aircraft weighing less than three metric tonnes (roughly 6,600 pounds) pays an annual fee of $71 for full access to Nav Canada services. Aircraft larger than that pay as they go for movement and terminal charges. The new charge captures at least two very light jets that would have slipped under the three-tonne limit, including the Eclipse 500 and the Canadian-built Diamond D-Jet. The cost difference is significant. Kevin Psutka, president of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association says his calculations show a short flight between London, Ont. (where the Diamond is built) and Toronto would cost the Diamond owner C$105.42 and the Eclipse owner C$114.14.