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Tue, May 01, 2007

FAA Rebukes Group's Claims Against Funding Plan, Part One

Says Alliance Is Not Comparing "Apples To Apples"

In a telephone conversation with Aero-News last week, representatives with the Federal Aviation Administration rebuked many of the points presented by the Alliance for Aviation Across America, in that group's rebuttal to the FAA's policy document released April 23 on the subject of user fees. Over the next several days, ANN will present those arguments, and the FAA's contrasting position on each issue.

As Aero-News reported, the Alliance claimed the FAA's own documents show that GA currently contributes 8.6 percent of the taxes that flow into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund -- not the 3% claimed by the agency, while also pointing out general aviation is responsible for 16 percent of the costs of ATC services.

"The difference here is really in the definition of general aviation," says David Weingart, an economist in the FAA policy office. "When we did both the 3 percent of the taxes, and the 16 percent of the costs, that was based on the IRS definition of who pays general aviation fuel taxes... and that's basically purely private operators, corporate jets, private pilots, et cetera. In the aviation industry, and even within FAA in some cases, there's a broader definition of general aviation that includes air taxis, charters, fractional ownership.

"The Alliance's figures include that broader definition of GA in the 8.6 percent of the taxes -- which is based on FAA data," Weingart continues. "But to have a true apples-to-apples comparison of taxes to costs, you'd have to include all of those same groups in the costs. If you did that, the cost allocated to that broader definition of GA would be 23 percent, rather than the 16 percent we've been citing.

"Either you can say that GA, as narrowly defined by the IRS, contributes 3 percent of the taxes, and is responsible for 16 percent of the costs, or in a broader definition they contribute about eight-and-a-half percent of the taxes, and drive around 23 percent of the costs," Weingart said.

As for the Alliance's claim that a 1997 cost-allocation study states GA is responsible for just 6.7% of air traffic control costs, Weingart says he'd like to know what figures the Alliance is looking at.

"Frankly, we don't see that figure anywhere in the 1997 cost allocation study," Weingart tells ANN. "On Table 1.2 (of the 1997 study), you'll see GA is allocated $797.5 million of air traffic costs, out of a total of $6.307 billion. If you divide that out, that comes to 12.6 percent."

Weingart also stresses that, contrary to the Alliance's claims, the agency does not always "treat all turbine aircraft the same."

"The cost allocation study treats all turbine aircraft the same, only when they fly the same flights and use the same airports," Weingart said.  "That's the bottom line. Because we divide airports into groups, and separate out the 30 large hubs, those flights that actually use the large hub airports get allocated the cost of those facilities."

Coming Wednesday... Part Two Of The FAA's Response
FMI: www.faa.gov, www.aviationacrossamerica.org/

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