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Fri, Feb 29, 2008

Rockefeller Blames Stalled FAA Funding Bill On GA

Cites "Inability To Compromise" During Hearing

Some people just don't get it. West Virginia Senator John D. Rockefeller says it's unlikely there will be an FAA funding reauthorization bill passed at all in 2008, period... and he says the general aviation community is to blame.

In comments during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Thursday, Rockefeller made his declaration of failure "based on the GA community's inability to compromise" on agreeing to a $25-per-flight user fee for most turbine aircraft flying under IFR flight plans, as called for under the Senate reauthorization bill S.1300.

The senator says the fee is necessary to pay for modernizing the air traffic control system... and Rockefeller believes GA doesn't want to pay its fair share. "I blame it on them because we can’t work it out," Rockefeller added, reports the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Rockefeller's bombast is nothing new. As ANN reported last July, Rockefeller joined then-fellow Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) in slamming GA for its reluctance to adopt the fee -- which isn't included in the House reauthorization bill, H.R.2881 -- and threatened the GA community outright if it didn't step in line.

"If we don't restore equity, then as chairman of this aviation subcommittee, I will address the equity issue by looking for ways to limit general aviation access to congested airspace," the West Virginia democrat (right) said. "There are ways to do that, and we will find those ways."

New Hampshire Senator John Sununu doesn't agree with his colleague from across the aisle, calling Rockefeller's assertion GA opposition has doomed an FAA reauthorization bill this year "a bit of an unfair statement," and noted GA has supported bills that "bring us to a much more equitable and proportionate sharing of the costs."

Sununu says he -- and others on the Commerce Committee -- oppose tacking on the $25 turbine fee because it would require significant administrative and logistical costs to implement and oversee.

"We have a system in place for collecting revenues to support this modernization and that is an aviation fuel tax," Sununu said. "And the proposals put in place...significantly increase fuel taxes on general aviation."

Sununu asserts the Finance Committee’s tax bill (S.2345) and the House bill call for enough money to be raised for ATC modernization -- and both do a better job of equitably apportioning costs throughout the network.

FMI: www.senate.gov/~rockefeller/, www.aopa.org

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