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Wed, Feb 14, 2007

NBAA Calls Proposed FAA Budget A 'Sweetheart Deal' For The Airlines

FAA Plan Includes Airline Giveaways; GA, Congress Pays

It didn't take long for the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) to denounce the new funding plan unveiled by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Wednesday. NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen slammed the agency for providing a huge tax break and other giveaways to the large airlines, while punishing the mostly small and mid-size businesses in general aviation, and stripping Congress of most of its role in aviation system funding decisions.

"It's fitting that the FAA's plan has been introduced on Valentine's Day, because it's a sweetheart deal between the Agency and the commercial airlines," Bolen told ANN. "Going into the FAA reauthorization process, the airlines wanted three things. They wanted user fees - they got them. They wanted to shift their costs to general aviation -- they got that. And they wanted to reduce congressional oversight of the aviation system decision-making -- they got that, too.

"As a result of airline lobbying, this proposal gives the giant airlines a major tax break by imposing massive tax hikes and onerous new user fees on the businesses that rely on general aviation. It also essentially removes Congress from its traditional role in overseeing funding decisions for the FAA."

To underscore his point, Bolen pointed to the following elements in the FAA's plan:

  • A more-than tripling of the fuel taxes paid by general aviation aircraft operators. Under the FAA's proposal, the taxes would increase more than 300 percent, from 21.8 cents-per-gallon, to 70 cents-per gallon.
  • New user fees for general aviation flights that pass through the airspace within several miles of large airports.
  • A litany of other new, transactional user fees for pilot licensing, aircraft certifications and other services.
  • The creation of a new control board that is expected to be dominated by the airlines and largely influence decisions about aviation system  priorities.

"Perhaps the most egregious of these ideas are the new user fees, which necessitate large, administrative bureaucracies," Bolen said. "We think the Agency should be focused on safety rather than revenue collection. We don't want to see the FAA Administrator adding 'tax czar' to his or her list of duties, and we don't need to create an IRS branch at the Agency."

Bolen added the changes proposed by the FAA "would overthrow a funding structure that has proven to be stable, reliable and efficient for several decades."

"Revenues going into the Airport and Airways Trust Fund are at record levels, and no less an authority than the Congressional Budget Office has said that the FAA will continue to have sufficient funds to fully support the transition to the Next Generation Air Traffic System," Bolen noted. "The fact is, the FAA's scheme promotes radical changes in order to provide a giveaway to the big airlines."

"The general aviation community has long led the way in working to strengthen the nation's aviation system, and we will continue to do so,"Bolen said. "It's unfortunate that the FAA has ignored the tens of thousands of small and mid-size businesses, and towns across the country, that rely on general aviation because they have little or no airline service."

"Hopefully, we'll get a better hearing from those in Congress who traditionally oppose big new government bureaucracies and care about the nation's small and rural communities," Bolen concluded.

FMI: www.nbaa.org, www.faa.gov

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