Earth to FAA: Skip AirVenture This Year

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Almost every year during AirVenture, the FAA administrator makes the obligatory slog to Wittman Field in N1, does a dog and pony and flies back to the Washington puzzle palace. In years past, this has been a bit of a love fest. In 2010, I was amused—or was it shocked?—when then-EAA president Tom Poberezny protected then-FAA administrator Randy Babbitt from penetrating questions about FAA foot dragging on the 100LL replacement non-effort.

The FAA shouldn’t expect the same treatment this year, nor does whoever bothers to fly out to AirVenture from Independence Avenue this week for the traditional show up deserve more than a chilly acknowledgement. EAA Chairman Jack Pelton, one of the straighter shooters in general aviation, hasn’t attempted to disguise his ire with the FAA for its decision to charge the association $450,000 for air traffic services for AirVenture.

In pursuing what is clearly a purely political decision, the FAA is quite plainly shaking down the very people they are supposed to be serving and supporting. As Pelton has pointed out, the agency has the line-item budget support to cover events like AirVenture but, for political reasons, it has chosen to beat up the industry with sequestration as the excuse. Moreover, it is using its regulatory authority in an abusive way by preventing organizations like EAA from using less expensive private-sector ATC services which is ultimately the way events like AirVenture may have to go. It’s really government oversight at its worst.

We’re not sure who’s going to show up to represent the FAA, but it will likely be a few senior executives who will try to make nice and explain that the AirVenture fiasco wasn’t of their doing, but was a cabinet-level decision. While this may be true, FAA execs are the public face of an agency that now appears to be actively engaging in economically undermining general aviation at every turn. Considering the rules of polite society, we shouldn’t hurl rotten tomatoes or insults at the FAA executive corps, but they are the active enablers of policies that harm general aviation. Nor should we take it out on the pink shirts in the Oshkosh tower, even though they also represent another touchpoint with the public.

So to avoid the specter of a terminal case of painful hypocrisy, wouldn’t it be better for everyone if the FAA contingent just stayed home this year? They’ve clearly shown no interest in helping so they might as well drop the façade and save the travel money. Unless, of course, they show up at Wittman Field with an industrial-strength fence mending kit and a refund check in the amount of $450,000.

Join the conversation.  Read others' comments and add your own.

Comments (27)

Well Said Paul! I think if the FAA does have the gall to show up, we (as General Aviation) should do everything in our power to NOT acknowledge them AT ALL! DO NOT show up to their forums, bypass the Federal Pavilion, etc. SHOW them that we are tired of their crap and will not support them anymore.

Posted by: R. Doe | July 31, 2013 7:59 AM    Report this comment

Well said, Paul!
The agency that is supposed to serve the flying public has now become its master. Unfortunately, this will probably not be their only shakedown.

Posted by: A Richie | July 31, 2013 9:00 AM    Report this comment

The Federal Adversarial Administration at its worst. Any residual respect that I might have had for them is gone... on the breeze. No wonder that I try to stay as far away from any of them as possible.

Posted by: Steve Fremgen | July 31, 2013 10:12 AM    Report this comment

If they show up, the EAA should suddenly remember they haven't charged the FAA for their platform space, their power, their security and their audio/video support. I think they should deliver an invoice to whoever shows up when they get to the front gate and refuse to let them enter unless they pay up - right then and right there!

Posted by: Bill Barto | July 31, 2013 11:08 AM    Report this comment

I agree with you Bill, although the invoice needn't be itemized, of course.

Posted by: Jamey Curry | July 31, 2013 11:35 AM    Report this comment

While I agree with the sentiments expressed, it is important to remember that many of the people who work for the FAA and will be at Oshkosh are not the ones who made the decisions.

Call your senators and representatives and tell them to fix the budget in Washington. Tell them to give the FAA a budget that directs them how to spend their money and don't leave these sequester cuts in place that allow the agency heads to pick and choose what cuts they want. The agency heads are not elected positions.

Posted by: Michaela Lucas | July 31, 2013 1:21 PM    Report this comment

And after we're done with this, the next issue to tackle is the stop and search targeting and harassment...

Posted by: Brian Neiman | July 31, 2013 1:24 PM    Report this comment

This all goes along with the Obama Administration's tactics. Nothing new here. O Business as usual, sorry to say.

Posted by: Brian Neiman | July 31, 2013 1:26 PM    Report this comment

All part of the Obama Administrations tactics...

Posted by: Brian Neiman | July 31, 2013 1:28 PM    Report this comment

Let 'em come. Charge them a hefty admissions fee.

Posted by: Pete Sandhu | July 31, 2013 1:36 PM    Report this comment

I think an invoice for $450,000 for the podium space is in order!!! Do it!

Also, the FAA should strongly consider taking the funding for all non-pink shirts they have in their line item to visit Airventure and use it to offset this $450,000 bill from the EAA instead of coming!

The points about not giving garbage to the rank and file FAA folks are good -- there are many folks in the FAA that are in our corner. It's the upper crust that have made this decision. Hopefully they will fully endorse the decision to pay a $450,000 bill to rent space at Airventure with the same vigor they decided to push through a $450,000 bill for ATC services!

Posted by: Don Desfosse | July 31, 2013 1:44 PM    Report this comment

Don't forget this kind of abuse and hypocrisy is clearly characteristic of this administration. The real blame for this stupidity stops at the Oval Office!!!

Posted by: Dwight Axtell | July 31, 2013 1:50 PM    Report this comment

Very simple. They charged EAA; EAA ignore bill and don't pay regardless. Make it a political issue. If they file suit, so be it.

Posted by: Don Martin | July 31, 2013 1:52 PM    Report this comment

Instead of working with the FAA at all, why not hire your own contract controllers? I'm sure there are some retired controllers who would love to pick up some extra bucks.

Posted by: Mary Hoy | July 31, 2013 1:58 PM    Report this comment

Don't blame the FAA. Blame the congressmen that wouldn't even give the FAA a budget from 2006 to 2012 and forced it to limp along under continuing resolutions. Then when they gave it a budget, they cut it 15% from what they needed. And FINALLY they couldn't agree on a 2013 federal budget and forced us into a sequester which tore another 10% out of the FAA budget. If you can't do that math, you probably can't w/b your plane either..

Frankly I am becoming embarrassed by some of the selfish, self-serving attitudes of some of my fellow pilots with their "Unrealistic Sense of Entitlement". If some rational and reasonable voices don't speak up on this topic soon, I'm going to drop my 30+ year memberships in EAA and AOPA.

If they can cut school lunches, those of us that can afford planes (or to fly them) ought to buck up and understand that we might have to take responsibility for the cost of our own 'party' in Oshkosh. Or, the FAA could just provide their normal handful of Wittman traffic operators (Instead of the beefed up contingent) and everyone can get in line in a normal traffic pattern. If you want special services, you should pay for it during the sequester.
Blame your inflexible conservative congressmen.

Posted by: Dennis Logue | July 31, 2013 2:59 PM    Report this comment

Charge the FAA for any service they receive from EAA. Don't forget, that this government is a Company whose name happens to be USA Inc. It is a fact. Charge them for every water they drink, for every coke they drink and don't give them the hangar to display for free either. Let them pay their rental cars and make sure that you do not invite them to any parties. They are not welcome, since they are trying to instill backstabbing-like policies.
Slowly but surely the tip of this iceberg is showing its true color in the light of hard times.

Posted by: Gerhard Paasche | July 31, 2013 3:04 PM    Report this comment

Well said Dennis. Our dear leader couldn't have said it better. It certainly sounded like it came from one side of his mouth. You only forgot to point out this is really Bush's fault. I'm just having a problem figuring out why it costs $45 each to handle one take off and landing for the 10,000 airplanes that could show up at Oshkosh. Oh, I guess I need to come to grips with the fact that I am a "Fat Cat" when flying my J3 Cub. In the spirit of bi-partisanship, perhaps the FAA could have at least split the costs this first year, and then worked on ways to perhaps reduce the costs to the EAA.

Posted by: Jake Jacoby | July 31, 2013 3:41 PM    Report this comment

Itemize the bill present it to EAA. The free ride is over. Would you expect your FBO to do more than he is getting paid to do? Most likely not. So then why expect the American taxpayer to pay for your ATC services? If the services rendered by ATC are above and beyond normal services for a controlled tower like OSH let those attending pay for those services.

Stop whining.

Posted by: Ken Mason | July 31, 2013 3:42 PM    Report this comment

Amen to that. Sequestration has become the excuse du jour for poor federal performance. Even with federal revenues at an all-time high, the beast is still hungry. The administration is just throwing a temper tantrum because they can't get a blank check. Now the public is the enemy.

Posted by: Mike Bonsal | July 31, 2013 3:43 PM    Report this comment

Doesn't any one else see the president that this FAA bill for services has set? General aviation (EAA) has now allowed the Government to impose user-fees!!! At the first breath of the FAA saying your going to pay for this service out of pocket the EAA should have said to the FAA stay home we don't need you and hired or had appropriately rated volunteers do the job. Pilots please think, the majority of the traffic flying into Oshkosh is NON commercial general Aviation aircraft that have already paid for FAA services through avgas taxes so why the added expense (because they actually have to work?) we already paid the FAA!! when was the last time any of us pilots had to pay the Government to go to a pancake breakfast - local flyin - airshow? I guess its not enough that the Government has doubled the price of fuel in six years along with the taxes on that fuel or that they collect 7% sales tax on all sales at the shows or events that take the general public out of there normal habits and spend money in another location. BIG GOVERNMENT BAD most people good.

Posted by: Bill Wade | July 31, 2013 3:55 PM    Report this comment

Our little FAA flap, sadly, is only one of thousands of symptoms of the basic problem the entire country faces: Government at all levels has so grossly over-committed itself with fiscal promises there can be no hope of keeping.

The fact FAA is scrabbling around the bottom of the bucket for a few more dollars to stretch their budget is only one version of the same sort of tax-by-another-name money grabs governments increasingly run everywhere. Try to build something these days and add up the fees and "mitigation" extortions you will be hit with. National parks are no longer free. Localities everywhere have split off sewer costs into a separate utility which usually costs more than the water you put down it. The list is endless.

Meanwhile cities are throwing up their hands and declaring bankruptcy and Congress continues to kick the multi-trillion-dollar can down the road on Social Security and Medicare, a bird which will come home to roost with a vengeance soon enough. Doom. Gloom. Think I'll have my evening cocktail a little early today.

Posted by: John Wilson | July 31, 2013 6:00 PM    Report this comment

$450,000 for 7 days of supplying traffic control? By my calculations that amounts to $2,678.57 per hour for 24 hour a day service. If controlers are paid $100/ hour (which I doubt, but who knows) that would mean 26 controlers are on duty 24 hours a day. I don't think that many people will fit in the tower.
If the FAA had come up some reasonable figure, I think the EAA would gladly chip in. Maybe they are trying to offset some of Obama's use of Airforce One.

Posted by: Charles Walker | July 31, 2013 6:27 PM    Report this comment

General Aviation is the lowest cost user of the federal airspace in the country. The high cost air traffic control system now in place was designed for the commercial airline industry and that's the sector that should bear the expense of this system. A light aircraft can get coast to coast with just radio, position reports and pencil and paper; no radar, flight levels or arrival slot needed. Most of the FAA could be eliminated if it didn't have to support commercial air travel, and the FAA should stop repeatedly trying to allocate so much of its budget and overhead to the back of General Aviation.

Calling it event air traffic control services is just bad accounting.

Posted by: Bradford E. Willmore | July 31, 2013 11:39 PM    Report this comment

I think that a $450,000 landing fee would be appropriate since random numbers seem to be the norm!

Posted by: LARRY MUNCH | July 31, 2013 11:47 PM    Report this comment

Dennis, you are off base oin your attack on Congress. I suggest you reread your history book and understand what a mess our representitve Democracy has become under the progressives. I wouldn't give the FAA and their minions the time of day. All of them are unelected pigs at the trough and as far as the lower echelons being innocent reminds me of the Nazi war criminals excuse ' I was only obeying orders"

Posted by: CHARLES PLUMERY | August 1, 2013 4:46 PM    Report this comment

Sad day when the dog(s) start biting the very hand that feeds them as they are secure enough to join the ranks of abuse... IRS targeting anyone that has anything to say where taxpayer money goes to no pay, no show to the best opportunity to effect safety in... Oh was that a Mission Statement?

Posted by: Chuck West | August 2, 2013 2:01 PM    Report this comment

My Fiske Arrival & 36L Departure experience this year was quite subpar and not friendly compared to past years. It seemed to be an inconveience for me to trouble them for their time... The pattern was the same when visiting Fodu Lac as well. Gas Pricing was better than expected! Thank You to those who had a change of heart from the opening pricing.

Posted by: Todd Helmkamp | August 5, 2013 2:15 PM    Report this comment

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