Nationwide Newspaper Calls For Aviation User Fees
AOPA defended general
aviation to the rest of the world on Thursday, after a USA Today
editorial claimed airline passengers "subsidize" general aviation.
In an opposing view piece published alongside the paper's
editorial, AOPA President Phil Boyer explained to USA Today readers
that the current system is a single structure, designed for the
"Our elected representatives in Congress wisely created a
national air transportation system," Boyer wrote. And just as
trucks — which place a greater strain on the national highway
system — pay higher taxes and fees than family cars, the
airlines must carry a greater portion of the financial burden for
the nation's air traffic control system.
The USA Today editorial
was prompted by and uses much of the same rhetoric as an editorial
that Northwest Airlines CEO Richard Anderson wrote for his
airline's in-flight magazine. In fact, it quotes the article in
suggesting that other facets of aviation subsidize GA. Further, the
article suggests airline passengers are paying a big part of that
USA Today agreed, saying that "government studies show that the
approximately $190 million a year in fuel taxes paid by "general
aviation," as non-commercial flights are known, don't come close to
covering the services these planes use."
Responding to the USA Today op-ed piece, Boyer said, "Virtually
all of the problems with the air traffic control system cited in
the USA Today editorial are problems of the airlines' own making.
The delays that the FAA and the airlines are already forecasting
for this summer are largely due to the hub-and-spoke system that
the major airlines rely on. The hub-and-spoke system creates
unrealistic arrival and departure schedules at the major hub
airports. Summertime storms only compound the problem."
The EAA also responded
to the USA Today editorial with an op-ed piece of its own, posted
on the organizations website. The EAA piece blasted USA Today for
depicting "all general-aviation operators as "well-heeled" and
alluding to the "private-plane lobby" that is preventing user-fee
operations to be established. Part of EAA’s mission of
protecting the right to fly includes ensuring that recreational
aviation participants are not burdened with unfair expenses for
facilities and services they rarely, if ever, use."
"It is apparent that USA Today is pandering to its large
readership that travels through the nation’s major airport
terminals," said Earl Lawrence, EAA’s Vice President of
Government and Industry Relations. "General aviation operations are
not causing municipalities to build expensive new terminals, longer
runways and parking garages. Airline operations are. And those
tremendously expensive facilities are being paid for by those who
demand those facilities and services - the airlines and their
AOPA says the USA Today editorial is incorrect in claiming most
GA flights use air traffic control separation services. In fact,
the vast majority of GA flights are conducted under visual flight
rules, requiring only minimal contact with controllers and placing
almost no direct burden on the system.
"The air traffic control system is designed to serve the
airlines," wrote Boyer in USA Today. "Most small planes use few, if
any, of these services.
"The airlines pay a modest federal fuel tax of four cents a
gallon. Conversely, general aviation flights fund their use of the
system through a fuel tax five times what the airlines pay."
"We concur with Phil Boyer’s counterpoint editorial,"
Lawrence said. "We would add that EAA members, who mostly pursue
recreational aviation activities in day VFR conditions, use
primarily noncommercial airports and even fewer services during
their flying. That means if the USA Today proposal were to become
reality, these pilots would be paying a higher, disproportionate
share of the expense for something they rarely use."