AirVenture Controllers: To Pay or Not to Pay

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Over the weekend, I spent some time reviewing our poll last week asking, in a time of budget cutbacks, whether EAA should be expected to cover the FAA's costs of staffing the tower and arrivals during AirVenture this year. A strong majority, almost 60 percent, think the FAA should shoulder the bill, while 22 percent think it should be on EAA's dime. Our poll found mild support for splitting the cost or phasing it into EAA's budget over a few years.

As consumers of the news, most of us lack even the most basic information to form an intelligent opinion on this, I'm afraid. We don't have a refined sense of budget choices the FAA makes. So we judge it either emotionally or ideologically. As a friend of mine pointed out, we don't have the first clue how and why the FAA actually decided to stick EAA with the bill. Is it an honest budgeting decision and a bona fide effort to save money? Or is it just another opaque attempt to screw the flying public for political gain and future budget leverage? I'm assuming it's a little of both.

But I do notice one thing: As a group, aviation interests are reading line-for-line from the larger American script where it has become not just acceptable but expected that we'll demand services and no diminution thereof without any increase in taxes or service fees. Yes, I've heard the argument that we have paid for and are already paying for services like additional staffing at AirVenture. Maybe. But I haven't seen a convincing P&L to support this claim.

Consider where we are six months into the year. The FAA's attempt to save money by closing some towers was summarily shutdown by the Congress and given the low traffic counts at some of these towers, we can reasonably assume that pork not safety animated that outcome. And now the AirVenture issue is on the block, we're insisting—at least about two thirds of us are—that the FAA can't save money that way, either. And still, the alphabets agitate against user fees and argue that the FAA backcharging for controllers at AirVenture opens the door to that. I don't buy it.

So that puts me in, if not in the 22 percent, perhaps the 9 percent calling for phased in costs or cost splitting in the coming years. I agree that it's unfair for the FAA to spring this on EAA within a few months of AirVenture. To me, that stinks of pure politics and it's just poor stewardship of public resources. In a time of reduced budgets, we shouldn't be too surprised.

Speaking of the public, why is AirVenture so damned important, anyway? It's because AirVenture is two things: it's a significant economic engine for the global aviation industry where deals are made, airplanes are sold and ideas baked. It's also—let's face it—aviation's big annual party. We can easily dismiss the party part, but the industry depends on the economic engine of AirVenture and in my view, that justifies some FAA expenditure on it. But all of it? That may be a hard sell and one of these days, everyone—including those of us in aviation—will face some hard choices that we seem incapable of making. This is just the first of many.

Comments (69)

Very simple. Make Oshkosh non-towered. I bet it would work better with the pilots looking out for themselves. Would need a bit of planning & a better NOTAM, that is all.

Posted by: ROBERT ZIEGLER | June 10, 2013 3:41 AM    Report this comment

Let's remember that the sequester was a 2-3% cut in the base line budget increase for 2013. Not a cut at all but a reduced increase. Government agencies chose to make those reductions currently painful to the public rather than actually reduce the costs of their particular fiefdom. It has been a nice show for us serfs.

Posted by: Scott Krueger | June 10, 2013 5:21 AM    Report this comment

Let's not forget that AirVenture is the single biggest revenue generator for EAA, so footing the cost of the towers for AirVenture is merely reducing their profit. It is a cost of doing business. Sometimes business costs can be planned for and sometimes they come as big surprises. It is the nature of running a business, which EAA is. It is not a charity and only serves the interests of a very small percentage of the public.

Posted by: Thom Riddle | June 10, 2013 5:42 AM    Report this comment

The EAA has millions in investments and can easily afford this. What though has been done at other major air shows, fo instance Sebring, where a temporary tower is used during the annual show? Who pays for that?

Posted by: Kent Misegades | June 10, 2013 5:57 AM    Report this comment

My message to EAA. Write the check and be done with it.

Posted by: John Pursell | June 10, 2013 5:58 AM    Report this comment

Paul - nicely put. "we'll demand services and no diminution thereof without any increase in taxes". Couple that with Congress' meddling to force continued spending (like the temporary "Essential Air Service" after 30 years) and we have arrived at a mess. Keep the Sequestor going. Continue to squeeze USG until they and Congress start publicly reducing programs and expenses (I know that the $M spent on IRS conventions is a flyspeck in the budget, but it would've covered Oshkosh).

Posted by: JAMES MILLER | June 10, 2013 6:08 AM    Report this comment

Is the FAA asserting that it will decline to provide ATC services if EAA declines to pay a fee? That would be an interesting violation of the Agency's charter. They can’t have it both ways – either safety considerations MANDATE a tower, or they don’t. The Agency has to provide what safety requires. Perhaps EAA should put a contract out to bid. There are private towers in this nation (I'm not talking about towers that the FAA contracts out).

Paul, you're right about Americans demanding government services for which the Congress refuses to pay through taxation. But this FAA action is the camel's nose in the tent of universal user fees, which inevitably would lead to an apartheid ATC environment and a concomitant reduction in safety. Imagine the reaction if the FAA sent the NFL a bill for temporary increased ATC staffing levels in conjunction with the next Super Bowl. If the NFL balked, how would John Q Public and the Congress react? I suspect that it would be either "FAA: do your @#$% job!" or universal user fees from that day forward. With our Demonizer-in-Chief riding around in the world's most expensive GA vehicle, I'm quite certain what he would – and does – advocate.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | June 10, 2013 6:17 AM    Report this comment

Thanks Paul for pointing out the hypocrisy of so many that want benefits for "others" cut but nothing that effect them. Seems to me not that long ago a group of pilots asked the EAA to cover expenses to bring their planes to the show and EAA said "No way.."

Posted by: rick mullins | June 10, 2013 6:22 AM    Report this comment

It seems to me imposing a new fee on the flying public is indeed the same thing as imposing a new tax. This is a power reserved to congress. The FAA taking on this role is illegal and should be punished severely by congress. Perhaps demanding the resignation of both the head of the FAA and DOT would be in order. This kind of illegal action by a government agency should not be tolerated.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | June 10, 2013 6:31 AM    Report this comment

Perhaps EAA should call the FAA's bluff. OSH is already a towered airport with Midwest ATC having the contract. I think Midwest ATC should bolster the staffing, and have the local tower personnel control the event, with added Midwest staff.

This will speak volumes.

Posted by: Gary Fiske | June 10, 2013 6:44 AM    Report this comment

Hey, if the AirVenture air traffic control fee is $500,000, and the FAA's sequester cut-backs are $384,000,000 ..... think about it, that's only 0.13% so FAA could probably get their cut-backs elsewhere.

Posted by: Loren Otto | June 10, 2013 6:48 AM    Report this comment

Well said Paul! Paras 2 and 3 were right on and that opinion needs to be out there as part of the larger conversation.

Posted by: LEONARD ASSANTE | June 10, 2013 7:00 AM    Report this comment

I agree that this is exteremely poor stewardship of our public resources (full disclosure: I'm a US Gov't contractor), so my advice to FAA is to suck it up this year and provide the services that AirVenture staff, sponsors, and visitors have to come expect in the past.

Immediately after AirVenture, sit down with Jack and the rest of EAA and WORK with them to find a solution. As pilots, we do pay a innordiate amount of tax, and that should make up the difference, but if it's not then other avenues need to be found.

Maybe we could put a coffee can near the tower for tips if the controller does a really good job.

Posted by: R. Doe | June 10, 2013 7:01 AM    Report this comment

Gary Fiske mentions that the event occurs at an airport that has a working tower. I think this makes the issue a bit grey. EAA doesn't seem to have the capability of going without ATC, it's already there. However, the event may cause a need for additional controllers, and that is due to the event. It's a private event. It should be responsible for any additional costs, but, not for the base costs the tower incurs every other week of the year.

If you look at just about every event that has special needs, you'll see that those special needs are paid by the event organizers. Security and such at a concert. I don't see additional and special ATC services being any different.

Posted by: David Froble | June 10, 2013 7:01 AM    Report this comment

According to sources I found there are about 80 openings for controllers. The highest paid controllers make just over 15,000 a year. IF we assume all 80 are the highest paid controllers ( a stretch as they are probably administrators ) and they work for the full week (I don't think all 80 will be working all the time) that still only comes to a little over 230k. The facilities are already there since it is a towered airport so how did the FAA even come up with their figures? If there was no Airventure would the controllers working there not get paid?? Perhaps in the future EAA should contract for 80 controllers and pay for it thus leaving the FAA controllers to find employment elsewhere for that week. Or maybe they could take a weeks vacation and volunteer.

Another point to those who say it is a private event. It isn't it is a public event where anyone can go without reservation or qualification (unlike the million dollar IRS parties or White House parties) taking place at a public airport that is part of the national airspace. If there is a concert do the police charge for the extra patrolmen they put on duty? If the president visits a city do they charge him for the extra police escorts? I am sure some compromise can be worked out such as the FAA saying we need a minimum of X controllers and they will provide Y so we need to contract an additional Z. Still the 500K number seems arbitrary and wrong, just a political number shot from the hip.

Posted by: RODNEY HALL | June 10, 2013 7:49 AM    Report this comment

Sorry, that should be 150,000 a year for a controller.

Posted by: RODNEY HALL | June 10, 2013 7:55 AM    Report this comment

I own a business in St. Paul, MN. Last Sunday was Grand Old Day, one of the largest street festivals in the upper Midwest drawing over 250,000 people. The Grand Avenue Business Association had to pay for the additional police protection required for this event. How is Oshkosh different than this?

The pilot community needs to quite wining about 'user fees'. We need to start paying for the services that we consume, just like everyone else. If we were paying the bills, there would be a lot less wasteful spending on lots of aviation related projects that are totally unjustifiable.

Posted by: Mike Schumann | June 10, 2013 8:22 AM    Report this comment

Why don't they ask retired controllers to help out... Must be thousands out there. Pay for expenses, perhaps a small per diem... Problem solved...

Posted by: AARON YOUNG | June 10, 2013 9:27 AM    Report this comment

I don't see the Super Bowl, The Masters, the US Open, or any of the BCS events paying for extra air traffic services. I don't see any FAA authority to impose fees on select events and not others. Was there some public rule making proposal, or did the FAA just dream this up in their DC ivory tower? Airventure controllers are an air safety issue, which if I recall correctly is one of the FAA's primary missions. Certainly as important as ensuring a Congressman's weekend flight home isn't delayed an hour or two. The FAA is already paying the salary of every controller working Airventure, there is no extra budgetary expense for their hours. There may be travel, there may be some overtime at the facilities they come from, but there is zero extra expense for their hours working at OSH. The FAA could probably save the bulk of the money if the Administrator and bureaucratic/PR staff do not fly to OSH on FAA aircraft, and in fact don't come at all.

Posted by: KELLY MCMULLEN | June 10, 2013 9:33 AM    Report this comment

What if any City a President visited in AF1 sent the White House a bill for all the extra services his visit cost them. I would LOVE to see one try. Now that I think about it, didn't AF1 ruin a runway in New Mexico and the Gov'ment refused to pay to fix it?

Thomas Yarsley is right ... if EAA caves, the camel's nose IS in the tent and we're all done. Airventure has to be viewed from the macro aspects, not by counting nickles and dimes. Aviation is one of the last bastions where the US is still out in front of the world and should therefore be supported. Beyond that, the FAAs job IS safety. If we let the FAA extort money over this, charges for individual flights that use a tower won't be far behind. User fees will be the logical result.

What if the FAA instituted user fees at towered airports and all of us stopped using the towered airports in favor of podunk int'l? THAT'd send a nice strong message. EAA refusing to pay is the macro equivalent.

I would like to see EAA tell FAA "no, we'll do it ourselves." EAA could get a block of rooms somewhere, temporarily hire CTO's for the week and do it themselves for a lot less than $500K.

My former employer was required to provide a certified tower operator position any time we flew a new military airplane at an uncontrolled airport in FL. Anyone who posses the correct training and credentials could do it ... and likely would gladly volunteer.

EAA ... DON'T CAVE !!

Posted by: Larry Stencel | June 10, 2013 10:00 AM    Report this comment

The FAA is tasked with providing air safety for the entire nation. Oshkosh has been a part of the nation's air traffic for decades but why is FAA now balking at this task (but not the traffic at LAX or JFK or ATL)? Public/private issue is irrelevant. Imagine if your local fire dept got to pick and choose whose house to cover and whose to skip, or else force some to pay up while others get a free ride.

Posted by: A Richie | June 10, 2013 10:55 AM    Report this comment

There is no real standard on this type of thing, sometimes groups are expected to pay for extra public services (police, sanitation & cleanup, air traffic control, etc.) and sometimes they are not.

Presumably the decision to charge or not charge for such special event services hinges on the government's perception of the PR equation; how much voter goodwill will be gained or lost. In this connection we have to remember that the general public (voters), to the extent we come to their attention, tend to view us airplane types as rich playboys addicted to noisy, polluting toys. Doesn't put us in a very strong bargaining position.

Posted by: John Wilson | June 10, 2013 10:56 AM    Report this comment

This administration has tried and failed several times to impose "user fees"--and having failed, is now trying the "back door" approach.

Didn't Oshkosh used to brag that Oshkosh controllers were VOLUNTEERS to work the show? There was a competition to see who got to work the show--only the best.

I'm sure there are enough EAA members that are air traffic controllers to work the show if asked.

Half a million dollars to handle 10,000 aircraft--$50 each to land and depart each aircraft? Especially with most of them not requiring radio communication on the part of the pilot?

Posted by: jim hanson | June 10, 2013 10:58 AM    Report this comment

G'day,

I think it would be interesting to calculate the additional fuel taxes collected from all the fuel used by aircraft flying to and from EAA AirVenture. For example, I burn about 120 gals total going to and from AirVenture. At $.194/gal that is approximately $23.28. If an estimated 15,000 airplanes fly to/from AirVenture the fuel taxes collected amount to $349,200. That should be enough to pay the salaries and expenses of the additional controllers required to service AirVenture.

Posted by: David Rogers | June 10, 2013 11:27 AM    Report this comment

I attended several EAA Conventions as part of the NWS weather support team in the 1980s. Our job was safety and pilot education and we paid our own way as this was part of our mission. Then privat weather vendors complained of unfair "Gummint" competition, and the FAA brought in FSS folks so we stopped coming. As a pilot, my first reaction was: first don't spring this at the last minute; that's blackmail. Second, It's a safety issue and that's part of the FAA's core mission. Upon further reflection: The EAA grossly overcharges for Airventure attendance and participation and, as an event "vendor", should plan and pay for a safe event. This includes not just FAA services but also Wittman-specific Hazardous Weather notifications and warning dissemination to attendees. They should partner with FAA and NWS so that each plays and pays for an appropriate level of participation based on core missions and budget realities. If we want more, we are going to have to pay more.

Posted by: Unknown | June 10, 2013 11:42 AM    Report this comment

Good point!

Isn't it interesting that the City of Oshkosh, the County, and the State don't charge for THEIR services relating to Airventure--leave it to the Federal gubmint to charge for THEIRS!

What OTHER gubmint agencies are going to follow the example of the FAA? Will the Highway Administration of the self-same DOT charge road fees for those driving? Will Lockheed Martin start charing for FSS briefings for all the extra traffic? Will the EPA enact a special tax on aircraft emmissions? Will "Homeland Security" suddenly find a "need" to install "screeners" at the gates? Will local government enact a "stadium tax" on all businesses within a certain radius, like they do for sports stadiums?

The gubmint already soaks up nearly half the income for middle-income Americans through direct and hidden taxes--enough is enough! Taxed Enough Already!

Posted by: jim hanson | June 10, 2013 11:45 AM    Report this comment

If EAA has to foot the bill then it should keep ALL the fuel tax to pay for it because that is what the tax is for. Yes the sequester was a joke by the obummer administration. The taxes have not been cut to fund the tower personnel even though the towers across America have been hit. It shows that we have a (I hate to say it this way) leader who would rather punish rather than lead our Great Nation.

Posted by: Roger Lindsey | June 10, 2013 12:08 PM    Report this comment

The sequester was not a joke. For once we finally got some spending cuts thru. Somewhere the government has got to cut spending. Charging for these types of events makes sense. That encourages groups like the EAA to look at lower cost alternatives, like getting volunteer controllers to do the job.

If you want lower taxes, you need lower spending. That implies that some services are going to have to get cut. That is reality.

Posted by: Mike Schumann | June 10, 2013 1:49 PM    Report this comment

To Mike The spending cuts we need are the ones that we give the billions to our enemies, not cut our safety in flying, and over the years the controllers were volunteers and they would fight over the opportunity to do it.

Posted by: Roger Lindsey | June 10, 2013 2:01 PM    Report this comment

Here's a data point. The Burning Man festival brings 25-30,000 people to a barren desert in Nevada every year, then cleans up the desert afterwards to leave no trace. The US Bureau of Land Management runs the land, law enforcement from several Nevada counties, federal agencies, and a native American nation are on duty for the event. Burning Man pays them fees for their services. In 2011 those fees were $368,000 of a $7 million event budget (financials.burningman.com/chart_2011.html). Some of those agencies are proposing roughly a doubling of those fees for 2014.

This validates John Wilson's point: sometimes events pay such fees to agencies, sometimes they don't.

Posted by: James DeLaHunt | June 10, 2013 2:12 PM    Report this comment

Ms. Sibelius of Health and Human Services recently had her leash yanked by Congress for shaking down the entities she regulates for more money than Congress authorized in taxes and fees.

How is this issue different?

Posted by: Greg Goodknight | June 10, 2013 2:44 PM    Report this comment

Mike--I agree--gubmint "services" are far out of control, and changes are needed. The way that the sequester was implemented, though, WAS a joke--rather than letting those with budget responsibility (an oxymoron in gubmint) decide where to make the cuts--the cuts were calculated to inflict maximum pain--to make people clamor for MORE gubmint. That IS a joke--and a cruel one at that!

Posted by: jim hanson | June 10, 2013 3:22 PM    Report this comment

The contract tower operator bid this contract KNOWING the staffing needs at Airventure. They should honor that contract.

If it is FAA that now mandates the non-volunteer controllers, then FAA should pick up the tab for the change in contract.

Posted by: jim hanson | June 10, 2013 3:30 PM    Report this comment

No one is arguing that the sequester was the right way to go. But when you have a completely dysfunctional Congress (and Executive Branch) and this is the only thing you can come up with, it's better than nothing.

Posted by: Mike Schumann | June 10, 2013 3:31 PM    Report this comment

The analogy to Ms. "Shakedown" Sibelius is spot-on...

Posted by: A Richie | June 10, 2013 3:56 PM    Report this comment

The aviation taxes in the Airport and Airways Trust Fund of 1970 (a misnomer if there ever was one) provided that the funds would be used for airports and navaids--specifically NOT for FAA administration. When a surplus accumulated, the FAA went back on its word, and in the 1982 bill, money could be used for FAA administration. IMAGINE THAT--A GOVERNMENT AGENCY LYING TO US!

Here's the explanation of the purpose of the bill--from the FAA itself. Put your own www. in front of the link faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/apl/aatf/

From the second paragraph "The Trust Fund was designed to finance investments in the airport and airway system and, to the extent funds were available, cover the operating costs of the airway system as well."

The system was set up to finance the "airport and airways"--to fund ATC. The current balance in the "trust fund" is $10.3 Billion.

We were lied to when they set it up--we've paid taxes for over 40 years--there's a surplus--and now they want to charge us MORE to fund the FAA empire?

It's DOUBLE TAXATION!

Posted by: jim hanson | June 10, 2013 4:16 PM    Report this comment

Jim, you're getting a tad shrill here. All this does is shed more heat than light on the average aviator trying to understand what he or she should think about this issue.

You know very well that the by far the largest majority of trust fund revenue comes from domestic airline pax tickets, air cargo fees and aviation fuel taxation. Bottom line: small airports that don't have airline service probably benefit more from the AATF than they will ever pay in.

We accept these things because we consider them part of overall infrastructure spending of all kinds. It's a system, after all. But without knowing detailed cost accounting of how this overhead is charged, the "double taxation" argument is as blind as a bat.

It further goes to my original point: You want services, you want low taxes and you want less government spending? Sure sounds like it.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 10, 2013 4:50 PM    Report this comment

Jim that's just the way this administration is working. Stick it to the tax payer.

Posted by: Roger Lindsey | June 10, 2013 4:54 PM    Report this comment

Nope--I want less government, lower taxes, and what we've already paid for through our aviation fuel tax.

If the administration wants higher taxes, just be up front about it--don't try to sneak it in the back door. They tried it twice, and failed.

I've flown to 78 countries around the world in GA airplanes--"user fees" are a royal pain. Despite trying to settle the fees at time of "service"--we continue top get bills 6 months later. Some countries (Canada included) imposed "user fees" "in lieu of" gas taxes--but the cost of gas is invariably the same as here, PLUS the user fees.

Shrill? Can you name any country where "user fees" have NOT hurt GA?

Is it NOT true that the FAA originally promised not to use "user fees" to fund the FAA administration--then reneged on that promise?

Is it NOT true that the gas tax is to fund the contribution of GA to the system, instead of user fees like the Passenger Facility Tax?

User fees plus gas taxes = double taxation.

Posted by: jim hanson | June 10, 2013 5:04 PM    Report this comment

Let's get real here. When you register your car, the cost, depending on the type of car and the state, can be $35 - $500+ / year. When we register our planes with the FAA, the cost now is $5 every 3 years.

Anyone outside of the aviation world who looks at this and sees the whining about 'user fees' would think we are a bunch of spoiled brats.

I agree that we need a financing system that is efficient, easy to administer, and minimizes the administrative burden on the user. Aviation taxes is obviously a perfect vehicle.

One can make a good argument that ATC, weather, or other per flight fees are a bad idea from an efficiency viewpoint. However claiming that the EAA shouldn't have to pay the FAA for special services to support a HUGE show that generates a LOT of revenue for the organization, makes us look like a bunch of idiots in the eyes on non-pilots and does a lot of harm to the overall image of the GA community which can really come back and bite us when we have to deal with the non-pilot world on airport and other issues.

Posted by: Mike Schumann | June 10, 2013 5:52 PM    Report this comment

I'm not against paying our own way--in fact, I'd like to take government MORE out of the equation, and let airports charge what they need to charge for services delivered. That's the free enterprise system at work--those that charge too much would lose out to those that don't.

It's a great way to eliminate "creep"--installing more systems than we really need. When spending "government money"--people overbuy. When spending their own, they look for value.

It makes no sense at all to send money to Washington--then beg to get a portion of it back.

Most of us would be happy to have less bric-a-brac at our airports in return for lower costs--the very "raison de entre" for small GA fields that sprout up in the shadow of big fields. Let those who want or need all the extras populate the big fields and pay more--and let FAA leave the rest of us alone.

Is there any question that given the choice of gilded-lilly airports or lower fees, that GA pilots would opt for less? Given the choice of more FAA or lower fees, GA pilots would not have let FAA build a humongous control tower at OSH--used only a few days out of the year--or 8000' runways. Instead, the FAA (like every other government program) made big promises--took our money--used 48% of it instead on administration--put in infrastructure that wasn't needed--and now has the chutzpah (like our President)to say we're "Not paying our fair share."

Get government out of the equation, and let the free market prevail.

Posted by: jim hanson | June 10, 2013 6:37 PM    Report this comment

I'm with Gary Fiske: if FAA wants to turn AirVenture into a fee-for-service operation, EAA should open up the contract to any ATC service provider. There are several contract tower operators who could supply qualified personnel for a heck of a lot less than half-a-million a week. FAA and NATCA would probably have a heart attack at the prospect, but tough luck. A little competition wouldn't hurt a thing.

Posted by: Zandor McAlpine | June 10, 2013 7:27 PM    Report this comment

The FAA assigns about 150 controllers to Airventure. On the low side they contribute about 8400 hours to the event, this at $50/hr accrues to $420,000. Including a $150 per diem hotel and meal expense per controller one can add another $157,000 to the score. Airventure draws over 300,000 attendees and over 12,500 aircraft. Increasing ticket sales by two dollars would cover the FAA’s bill, stop complaining.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | June 10, 2013 8:55 PM    Report this comment

You note Paul that ...most of us lack the basic information to form an intelligent opinion of this... I'm not sure that we the taxpayers own this, or at least we don't own it alone. This appears to me to be a failure of the Agency to clearly communicate both their budget needs and its limitations. Further they have failed to convince many of us that they are responsible with our dollars. They are stewards of our tax dollars and if nothing else they owe us that much. The comments here alone demonstrate the failure of their annual budget report to effectively communicate their efforts.

I am embedded in day-to-day activity with the agency and generally a supporter of the Agency, their employees, and their mission. But I don't buy this game the management team is playing either here or in similar efforts. For those of us embedded in day to day activity Agency we see a full court press taking place with these efforts.

Federal Agencies are forbidden from lobbying congress for money. (18 USC 1913) Without clear communication on budget management, it is easy to see how one could view this as an attempt to skirt this law. I.e. they may not be saying it, but it certainly appears they want you to call congress if you don't like it.

Posted by: Rob "daSlob" Schaffer | June 10, 2013 9:01 PM    Report this comment

What budget? The core problem is that Congress hasn't passed a budget in years. Is it any wonder that filters down into the agencies?

The reality is that all the agencies either have to, or should tighten their belts. It's totally appropriate to charge major event organizers the cost of providing the extra services necessary to support the event. That's not to say that the event organizers shouldn't shop around for a lower cost supplier (i.e. contract tower operators and/or volunteers).

Posted by: Mike Schumann | June 10, 2013 9:44 PM    Report this comment

I'm all for paying for the services we ask for, but it seems to me that we are paying for at least part of the increased costs already (increased sale of fuel). We should not have to pay more than our fair share.

The FAA appears to have been tasked to mete out as much pain as possible in their sphere of operations. As pointed out in comments above, their budget's growth has been constrained, not cut. They are still getting more money than ever before. The proposed cuts appear to be outsized in comparison to the money that needs to be saved.

I would suggest that the fees be paid, but a team of pro bono lawyers sue to recover the funds.

Posted by: RAY DAMIJONAITIS | June 10, 2013 10:57 PM    Report this comment

On what grounds would you sue? If you look at the amount of money the FAA spends on GA airports and compare that to the taxes that we pay on fuel, we are getting a serious free ride at the expense of the airlines and their passengers.

We need to quite whining and looking like some rich spoiled brats with their expensive toys.

Posted by: Mike Schumann | June 10, 2013 11:21 PM    Report this comment

There must be a lot of people here who have not flown into Oshkosh during Airventure. There is a little thing graciously permitted by the FAA called reduced traffic separation (i.e., 3 airplanes landing at the same time on the same runway) that allows for nearly 10,000 aircraft to operate at that airport during the week. This is certainly not normal operations at the tower and likely the reason for the extra staffing requirements.

If pilots want what they paid for in taxes, they get normal tower workload with standard traffic separation during normal operating hours. Be prepared to divert to an alternate airport.

There is no doubt that the Federal government has been ultra supportive and has subsidized EAA's fun but private fundraising party for many years and in many ways: controllers, one week of FAA seminars organized by FAA employees, NASA employees in the NASA hangar, military aircraft display, etc.

Perhaps last year's chalets along the runway alerted the government of the massive amount of funds EAA was raising during the event.

Regardless. According to EAA's website, the economic impact on Oshkosh-area counties is $110 millions annually. It seems to me that if we are going to ask taxpayers to put up the money to hold the party, it would be far fairer to ask the taxpayers of Oshkosh-area counties rather than taxpayer Joe in New Mexico or Jane in Oregon.

Posted by: Flying Bug | June 10, 2013 11:28 PM    Report this comment

If the FAA really wants to save wasted money I have a few suggestions:

1. Get rid of the Aviation Safety Inspector who makes a living inspecting pieces of paper and rejected my application for a repairman's certificate because it had "White out" on one of the fields. He then lost the second and third submissions and finally got the repairman's certificate issued 6 months later.

2. Get rid of the bureaucrat in Oklahoma City who rejected my airplane registration twice - first because I submitted an invoice instead of a bill of sale (which is the same thing) and then because I left a field which should have had my name (which appeared several other places on the same piece of paper) and was left blank.

3. Get rid of all the tyrants who are involved in issuing 3rd class medical certificates. These worthless documents work no better than a driver's license to show medical qualification and only serve to terrorize pilots and keep lots of bureaucrats employed.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | June 11, 2013 12:30 AM    Report this comment

Maybe if EAA hired it's own controllers, they could get some that know you don't land keep landing airplanes on 36, especially taildraggers, when is the wind is blowing out of the southwest.

Posted by: Galen Johnson | June 11, 2013 5:59 AM    Report this comment

Paul Mulwitz--I've long advocated the same thing. The process for cutting FAA expenses is already in place: 1. Cut the FAAST team FSDO reps. John & Marth King, Ron Machado, Sporty's, EAA and AOPA videos do the same thing. 2. Cut the FSDO flight inspectors. Most of them don't want to fly anyway, and we already have in place the Designated Pilot Examiners. Let them also do Part 135 rides. 3. Cut the "maintenance inspectors". For anything other than simple alterations, they usually require a Designated Engineering Rep or Designated Airworthiness Rep to do the inspection. We don't need Federal employees to rubber-stamp their work. 4. Cut the aircraft registration branch. These people are so inefficient that an entire industry of private title services has grown up in Oklahoma City. Let THEM do the work--they are already in place. 5. Use this opportunity with EAA to cut MORE unneeded towers--and better yet, PRIVATIZE more towers. 6. Cut the "consultants." According to one source, FAA spent almost 500,000,000 on consultants.

Almost any pilot can find a place to cut FAA--but far too many here adhere to "let's just raise taxes instead."RHÈ

Posted by: jim hanson | June 11, 2013 8:07 AM    Report this comment

"You know very well that the by far the largest majority of trust fund revenue comes from domestic airline pax tickets, air cargo fees and aviation fuel taxation. Bottom line: small airports that don't have airline service probably benefit more from the AATF than they will ever pay in."

I have always understood (perhaps incorrectly) that the airport improvement fund going to small GA airports represented a relatively small portion of the AATF. I still feel like overall, the alphabet groups have helped GA (at least, they're the best we have at the moment), but I also feel we've been at least partly lied to about what really matters for us pilots. If anything, I'd say this whole sequestration business has me feeling less informed about what's really going on, and I definitely feel the "oppose any new fees" approach is ultimately counterproductive. It gives the organizations less weight when they go to oppose the things that really matter (such as transforming the US into the European model).

After reading the discussions above, EAA probably should at least partially pay for the extra ATC services. How the FAA has gone about demanding compensation, however, shows either poor planning or lousy politics on their part. But if EAA is going to have to pay, then it should be done on the free market with private/contract ATC companies bidding on it. And if the FAA wants in, then they should bid for it as well.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | June 11, 2013 4:26 PM    Report this comment

Gary--you oppose "transforming the US into the European model"--yet user fees like those proposed ARE the European model--and look what that has done to GA in those countries.

There is never enough money to satisfy big government--they always want "more"--and they promise us "more" to assuage our concerns. Like any conscientious consumer of goods and services, let's look at alternatives before we simply write the check.

Your suggestion of privatizing is one good one. I'd consider taking it one step further--OSH had 96,000 "aircraft movements" last year--but approximately 25,000 of those during the airshow. Consider doing away with the tower, EXCEPT for during the airshow. Consider the contract with Midwest ATC for staffing.

Consider asking for volunteer controllers--did anyone read Sport Aviation's article from Oct. 2012? The 64 controllers (including ground directors on and off the field and including supervisors) COMPETE for the honor of staffing the tower--one guy applied for 29 years!

Has anyone done the math? $500,000 divided by 64 controller= $78,125 per person for a 10-day hitch. Does anybody ELSE think that is outrageous? Does anybody else think that it can be done cheaper?

Posted by: jim hanson | June 11, 2013 5:08 PM    Report this comment

While obviously a big deal in our little pond, this flap over OSH tower is an infinitesimal ripple in the mighty ocean of Federal spending. The big picture reality that no one wants to face is that we have simply grossly overcommitted ourselves in terms of services, overwhelmingly due to entitlement spending. The vast majority of government spending is locked into legally mandated “transfer payments” , primarily Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.

Cuts can only be made in the discretionary part of the budget, so we are pinching pennies in the military, Department of Education, FAA, the National Park Service, etc.

The crazy thing about this is that if we totally SHUT DOWN the military, the DOE, the FAA, etc., etc., we still would be in the hole tax vs. expenditure-wise.

What’s the answer? Isn’t one as far as I can see; we (or more accurately our kids & grandkids) are screwed. (P.S. Keep sending my Social Security check, please)

Posted by: John Wilson | June 11, 2013 7:11 PM    Report this comment

That's true--we can't balance the budget by making big cuts in the agencies--but there IS money to be cut--and it's a start. We WILL have to cut "entitlements."

All is not lost, though--IF we have the will to do so. Recall the "1 percent solution"? Cut just one percent per year--normal attrition will usually accomplish that--and the budget balances within a decade. Hardly the "Draconian Cuts" that those in favor of big spending tell us about.

We just have to have the will to actually DO it, and quit electing those who stick their head in the sand. Instead of asking elected officials "What law did you pass this year?"--we should be asking "What laws did you CUT this year?"

Posted by: jim hanson | June 11, 2013 7:47 PM    Report this comment

Let's clarify a few of the controller comments. First, the controllers do volunteer to come to the show, which means they want to try to handle the melee. It does not mean they are there on their own time or dollars. They technically have to be on duty to be covered by the FAA liability-wise. That's also why you can't have retired controllers, no liability coverage. Do you think the EAA could get insurance coverage for under $500k for the show? I doubt it. As to the contract tower companies being able to provide enough manpower to cover the show, they barely have enough controllers to cover the towers they are running. There is no way all of the contractors combined would have enough extra tower controllers to cover the slots needed. As to whether or not the contract towers should be closed, the FAA should follow their own directives that determine whether the tower is viable or not. If it no longer has the traffic, close it, but follow your own rules and don't make new rules to suit your current financial situation.

Posted by: David Slosson | June 11, 2013 9:36 PM    Report this comment

As to how much overtime is used, it varies widely depending on how many controllers are pulled from what level facilities. Back when I was an acting manager approving or disapproving an Oshkosh request, the amount of overtime was a big factor in selection, especially if the controller in question was a first or second year controller. The more years served, the more willing the selecting official was to pay out the overtime to cover for the controller at his/her regular facility. It wasn't unusual ten years ago to cover about 3/4 of the controllers' time away with overtime, which is a chunk of change. I can't speak for current practices.

I had my five years of controlling at Oshkosh and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'd have been willing to pay my own travel expenses, but some wouldn't. I would have been willing to give up a week of vacation leave to save the slot as well, but by the time I was first selected, I was a pretty senior controller and had lots of leave each year. I volunteered for 12 years before I was selected on my 13th application.

You can put me in the camp that says the FAA should give notice of the fee change and phase it in, and EAA should pay it. I'm also an active pilot and have been an EAA member since 1994.

Posted by: David Slosson | June 11, 2013 9:37 PM    Report this comment

As to how much overtime is used, it varies widely depending on how many controllers are pulled from what level facilities. Back when I was an acting manager approving or disapproving an Oshkosh request, the amount of overtime was a big factor in selection, especially if the controller in question was a first or second year controller. The more years served, the more willing the selecting official was to pay out the overtime to cover for the controller at his/her regular facility. It wasn't unusual ten years ago to cover about 3/4 of the controllers' time away with overtime, which is a chunk of change. I can't speak for current practices.

I had my five years of controlling at Oshkosh and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'd have been willing to pay my own travel expenses, but some wouldn't. I would have been willing to give up a week of vacation leave to save the slot as well, but by the time I was first selected, I was a pretty senior controller and had lots of leave each year. I volunteered for 12 years before I was selected on my 13th application.

You can put me in the camp that says the FAA should give notice of the fee change and phase it in, and EAA should pay it. I'm also an active pilot and have been an EAA member since 1994.

Posted by: David Slosson | June 11, 2013 9:38 PM    Report this comment

Robert Zeigler, the first poster, is right. Read the NOTAM. We get in line without FAA direction with our transponders off, then "follow the leader" to landing. Multiple PT 91 aircraft are allowed on the runway simultaneously, "reduced separation" is a controller thing, noi PIC thing. The entire convention can be done safely with courteous, cautious aviators following the rules.

Posted by: MICHAEL MUETZEL | June 11, 2013 9:53 PM    Report this comment

Wow, some great ideas here. Too bad the FAA did not ask for our help before springing this decision on us. I say "us" as many still see the EAA as more than AirVenture Inc. and our annual convention as our aviation summer camp. Here's an idea - why not construct a golf course off the end of runway 18? That will be sure to attract AF1's passenger and the chump change for these costs will be paid quickly from his stash.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | June 12, 2013 6:28 AM    Report this comment

I would not fly-in KOSH without a tower.

The FAA is in a position of conflict of interest: It's the regulator and provider. A bad formula, subject to FAA political abuse.

Posted by: Jacques Dery | June 12, 2013 7:48 AM    Report this comment

I agree with the Paul as part of the 22% in that generally we can get by with less.

Let's start with the proposed tower closing earlier this year. I have flown into 101 of the 149 tower that were on the chopping block in both piston and turbine aircraft. All these approaches and landings were no big deal by following the procedures described in AIM.

Yes, there was one airport that I questions but overall the list was appropriate and of course there were some on the list that are literally ghost towns. My proposal at the time was that we could close even more towers and transfer some of the funds to ATC. Nobody including my Kansas Senator Jerry Moran wanted to listen to logic. I tried to find a link at AOPA to communicate with them to turn the volume down. No luck there.

We cannot continue to say "NOT IN MY BACKYARD" but be responsible citizens. Yes we need additional controllers at OSH to have a safe operation and the FAA is playing games to find the funding. Who can blame them when they are caught between a rock and a hard place in today's "Washington Follies."

GA needs to responsively decide what it needs and lobby for those services. Pork barrel control towers are certainly something that we can do without to allocate funds for necessary services and support.

Posted by: Charles Lloyd | June 12, 2013 8:05 AM    Report this comment

David Slosson--thanks for you "insider" views. Can you help us out with the math as to how the FAA came up with the $500,000 figure?

In the Oct. Sport Aviation piece, they say 64 controllers out of 150 applicants. This seems about right, as there are 11 controllers pictured in the tower, and there are 4 teams of controllers rotating functions. That would work it to $78,125 per controller for a 10 day hitch. Even with per-firm expenses, that seems VERY high.

It would seem that FAA is either "cooking the books" on the actual cost, or is using this as yet another case of attempting to inflict maximum pain.

Like any thinking consumer, we shouldn't pay the bill until they provide an itemized statement.

Posted by: jim hanson | June 12, 2013 12:09 PM    Report this comment

Average controller would come from St Louis, fly to Chicago and rent a car. Round trip gov’t rate $280 airfare, intermediate car for 10 days $570, gas round trip Chicago to Oshkosh plus mileage while at the event $240, room rate $125/day x 10 nights. That’s $2340 per controller x 64 = $149,760. Overtime to cover for their shifts at home facility, assuming controller makes $40/hour ($83,200/yr) and 48 hours covered $1920. Let’s assume 48 of the 64 controllers need this overtime, so $1920 x 48 = $92,160. We’re only up to $241,920. All salaries are paid whether the controllers are at home or at Oshkosh, so there’s no difference there. Looks like the FAA is using a factor of 2, which is about what they used when they quoted how much they’d save by closing all the contract towers, except then they divided by 2. Yep, request an itemized bill to justify their charges. However, if Congress can’t get the FAA to respond to repeated requests for costs, do you really think the EAA will get anywhere?

Posted by: David Slosson | June 12, 2013 8:14 PM    Report this comment

Whoops, silly me, I forgot M&IE (meals and incidental expenses). Add about $45/day per controller for that, which is an additional $2880 for 64 controllers. I see the FAA quoted for 81 controllers this year, show me the names to prove it!

Posted by: David Slosson | June 13, 2013 7:17 PM    Report this comment

If this was forty years ago, and it was a fly-in at Rockford, I would say the FAA should provide the services paid for with fuel taxes. But it isn't. "Airventure has been a big money making machine for many years now - it is more about making money than hosting a fly-in for the membership. And, EAA knows that having 10,000 airplanes on the airport is part of the formula that maximizes the gate receipts. Paying for ATC services in this case is a matter of the EAA needing to spend some money to make more money They should foot the bill. And, I'm a forty year EAA member...

Posted by: MICHAEL WERNER | June 14, 2013 10:32 AM    Report this comment

"posted by Thomas Yarsley on June 10, 2013" got it right! The camel's nose IS in the tent. The result is the demise of General Aviation as we know it. The fees will show up everywhere since the EAA "accepted" the bill and "proved" all of us are "willing" to pay. For me, I'm done and selling my airplane before the rest of you figure it out.

Posted by: Harold Allen | June 14, 2013 10:33 AM    Report this comment

" EAA knows that having 10,000 airplanes on the airport is part of the formula that maximizes the gate receipts. "

"Spend money to make more money"? Paying the FAA blackmail ("pay up or we'll revoke the waivers") will NOT result in "making more money"--you won't increase the gate.

With attendance at 500,000, fly-ins are only a small part of the gate. If there were 2.5 people per aircraft on average, that is only 25,000 people, or only 5%. Far more members drive in than fly in--plus the huge number of non-members.

All government actions have "unintended consequences"--raising the cost of admissions to cover government charges will result in fewer attendees, and even fewer fly-ins--which OUGHT to mean fewer controllers--but when was the last time you saw government CUT back on a program?

It's the old axiom--if you want LESS of a product, tax it!

Posted by: jim hanson | June 14, 2013 12:23 PM    Report this comment

You know for years I've read how controllers were anxious to be one of the Oshkosh controllers during the convention. And I thought they were enthused to be part of the event out of a love for Aviation. So how about some volunteer controllers to handle it? Was it the extra pay they got that was the real reason behind their enthusiasm? If they'd like to help the EAA this would be one big way they could make a difference, assuming enough of them could get the time off to go there during the convention.

Posted by: Richard May | June 17, 2013 8:36 AM    Report this comment

Add your comments

Log In

You must be logged in to comment

Forgot password?

Register

Enter your information below to begin your FREE registration