In the face of a determined campaign by well-funded airline lobbyists and an administration hell-bent on revamping the FAA's funding structure, Rep. Jerry Costello's resolve has been unshaken and it earned him one of AOPA's highest honors on Saturday. Costello was named recipient of the "Doc" (Joseph B. Hartranft) Award as the public servant who's done the most to advance the interests of general aviation. Costello, as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's aviation subcommittee, drafted the House's FAA reauthorization bill, rejecting any form of user fee introduction and setting relatively modest fuel tax increases that will be used exclusively for airspace modernization. Costello wasn't able to attend Saturday's wind-up gala but in a recorded acceptance speech he said he views GA as fundamental to the overall health of the economy and the country.
Costello's award capped a convention where the user fee issue was muted in comparison to previous meetings but Boyer reminded members that the fight is far from over. The Senate is still working on its version of the bill and even though a couple of key committees have rejected the user fee concept, there is still some traction there for a $25-per-leg fee for turbine-powered aircraft. Although the fee would be all but inconsequential, AOPA is concerned that it would result in the creation of a fee-collection bureaucracy that would ready and waiting if other user fees were implemented in the future.