Every year for EAA AirVenture, the FAA sends a batch of controllers to handle all the extra traffic at the Oshkosh tower, but this year, the FAA is asking EAA to chip in to cover their costs. The FAA wants to collect enough to cover the controllers’ travel expenses, per diems, and overtime. EAA is not happy about the change. “This may be an early indication of further efforts by the FAA to charge GA operators for functions in ways that could add unforeseen costs for the average pilot who simply wants to enjoy flying,” said EAA, in a news release. Jack Pelton, EAA chairman, called the change “alarming,” and AOPA president Craig Fuller said it was “extremely troubling news.”
Fuller said it’s unfair and unsafe for the FAA to impose these extra charges. “We’ve warned that the Obama administration wants to hit general aviation with user fees, and that’s exactly what it’s doing to the EAA and AirVenture,” he said. “To depart from previous practice suggests that the FAA has entered a new, pay-as-you-go era with little regard for safety. General aviation already pays for FAA services through substantial fuel taxes. These user fees — there is no other word for them — are a double taxation.” Pelton added that the issue is about more than just AirVenture. The larger issue, he said, is that the change in policy signals a new direction for the FAA, in charging for an equivalent level of safety that has previously been provided. “If the FAA asks for reimbursement on certain AirVenture operations for which it has always budgeted, where else could the agency unilaterally impose assessments, fees, and other costs on GA?” asked Pelton. “It’s a frightening thought.” This isn’t the first time the FAA has sought reimbursement — Sun ‘n Fun was sent a bill for about $285,000 to cover controllers’ expenses, in April.