Congressmen Finds FAA User-Fee Plan "Disturbing"
The FAA's long-anticipated new funding plan, revealed Wednesday morning, calls for a changeover to user fees, as expected -- but the agency ran into immediate and widespread opposition at a hearing later in the afternoon before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich., called the proposal "dead on arrival." Many on the panel questioned whether the plan would promote safer skies. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., maintained that it would, ironically, because it would "rid the skies of general aviation aircraft." Along with others on the panel, he questioned the need for drastic hikes in the fuel tax -- from 19 or 21 cents per gallon to 70 cents -- and called the plan "terribly disturbing." Questions were raised about why the change to user fees would apparently result in even less money to support the airspace system, which already is strained and in need of technological upgrades. Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., who is a pilot, said there is "no way" the user-fee proposal is fair or feasible. The FAA needs to sit down with the pilots and controllers and come up with a better plan, he said. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the committee, said the critical question is whether the FAA plan would enable it to operate the largest and safest airspace system in the world. "On too many levels, the honest answer to this question has to be either 'no' or 'we just don't know,'" he said.