GA in Airlines’ Sights


General aviation groups are expecting an expensive and vicious campaign of misinformation from the country’s major airlines as the bills addressing FAA reauthorization move closer to resolution. “Airlines are attacking general aviation,” National Business Aviation Association President Ed Bolen told a packed house at a forum on the impact of user fees proposed in the Senate bill currently under consideration. “We are the enemy as far as they’re concerned.” Bolen was joined by EAA President Tom Poberezny, General Aviation Manufacturers Association President Pete Bunce and AOPA President Phil Boyer. Those attending were urged to contact their Congressmen and senators to try and ensure the final version of the bill, which varies widely between the Senate and the House, emerges with no apparatus to collect user fees. In the Senate bill, a $25 “modernization surcharge’ is included for IFR flights by turbine aircraft, along with major cuts in taxes for airlines. The House bill increases taxes for all aviation sectors but doesn’t allow for a billable fee, a crucial difference in the minds of the GA leaders.

The leaders reiterated the stance that allowing even that nominal fee would create a system for collecting all sorts of fees in future. The spokesmen also told attendees to expect an onslaught of advertising aimed at creating the incorrect impression that general aviation, particularly corporate jets, are responsible for the increased incidence of delays and flight cancellations at airports. Boyer said the groups can’t hope to manage the advertising budgets of the top 18 airlines and cargo carriers but they can target their resources in the home states of critical members of both sides of the government. And they’re also getting the impression that the public isn’t buying the airlines message that GA is to blame for the delays. He said they can look out the windows when they travel and see for themselves that there are hardly any GA aircraft at the busiest airports. Boyer said timing appears tight for the government to pass reauthorization legislation before the current reauthorization expires at the end of September so it’s important that measures be taken to ensure the status quo remains until the matter is formally resolved.