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Tue, Jun 24, 2008

General Aviation Groups Slam New Report Saying GA Doesn't Pay Its Fair Share

Here We Go Again, Everybody!

Just when we expected the ongoing verbal conflagration over user fees to ebb a bit -- given that the FAA reauthorization debate is all-but dead for this year, victim to partisan posturing in the US Senate -- on Tuesday two Washington, DC-based think tanks decided to throw new fuel on the fire.

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Essential Action (EA) issued a joint report in lockstep with a number of contentions from big airlines... that private business jets are strangling the nation's air traffic control network, clogging airports and airways, and contributing to global warming.

"The super-wealthy, private jet-set are shifting the costs of their high-flying indulgence on to the rest of us," writes Essential Action director Robert Weissman, who co-authored the report High Flyers: How Private Jet Travel Is Straining the System, Warming the Planet, and Costing You Money. "They pollute more than commercial flight passengers, but don't pay. They don't pay a fair share of their air traffic control costs. And they have manipulated the tax code so we all subsidize the cost of private jet purchases."

Predictably, the airline industry lobbying group Air Transport Association welcomed the report; just as predictably, a number of general aviation groups slammed it.

"For the past two years, the nation's big airlines have spent millions of dollars on a PR and lobbying campaign designed to help them seize greater control of the air traffic system and shift their costs onto small aircraft," said a release from the Alliance for Aviation Across America. "The report by IPS/EA appears to be the latest chapter in the airlines’ playbook as these Washington, DC think tanks mimic the airlines’ dubious data manipulation techniques and parrot their talking points."

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) also responded to the joint report, saying it "resurrects the well-worn, and worn-out airline industry claim that GA does not pay its fair share of the costs associated with air traffic control (ATC) services when in fact, the airlines themselves drive the costs of a hub and spoke model that was built primarily to meet their needs."

GAMA adds general aviation pilots already pay their fair share to support the nation's ATC network, through "hefty" fuel taxes imposed on 100LL and Jet-A. Those fees would climb even higher under the FAA reauthorization bills now stalled in the House and Senate.

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) also dismissed the report, calling it "inaccurate" and "out of touch with the critical role small business aircraft play in supporting jobs, transportation and economic activity in communities across the country."

NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen said the reports "start with a ridiculous caricature of general aviation that has been heavily promoted by the airlines, but bears no relationship to reality. Then, it throws a barrage of baseless, over-the-top claims against the wall to see if anything sticks. In the end, none of the allegations stick, because the report is both inaccurate and distorted."

FMI: Download "High Flyers", www.aviationacrossamerica.com, www.gama.org, www.nbaa.org

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