NBAA's Bolen Assails 'Inaccurate, Misleading and Unsupported'
Claims Made About GA In Reason Foundation Report
NBAA President and CEO
Ed Bolen has released a letter sent Tuesday to Reason
Foundation President Robert W. Poole to point out several
inaccurate, incomplete or misleading claims made in a
report released by Poole Wednesday. Bolen's letter notes that
Poole's report, entitled "Resolving the Crisis in Air Traffic
Control Funding," inaccurately describes general aviation
operations, and makes arguments that do not support the report's
May 3, 2005
Robert W. Poole, Jr.
3415 S. Sepulveda Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90034
Dear Mr. Poole and Mr. Cordle:
I am very concerned that your latest report inaccurately
describes general aviation operations, contains many statements
that are incomplete or misleading, and makes arguments that do not
support your conclusions. In order to clarify these points, below
are headings with a few examples that I believe support my
Inaccurate Description of General Aviation Operations
Your report says that business aircraft "nearly always fly from
towered airports, fly at the same altitudes as regional and
mainline commercial airlines, and make extensive use of ATC
THE FACTS: In reality, approximately 10 percent
of the airports used by business aviation have towers. In addition,
the turboprops and pistons twins (which make up the majority of the
business aviation fleet) typically fly below the scheduled airlines
while business jets prefer to fly above the airlines.
Your report claims that "planes in fractional-ownership programs
are in the strange position of paying more for using the ATC system
if they have opted to be regulated (for safety) under Part 135 than
if they operate under Part 91 Subpart K."
THE FACTS: Fractional aircraft operations pay
exactly the same taxes whether operating under Part 135 or Part 91
Subpart K. The IRS has long-held that fractional program flights
are commercial. Operations conducted under Part 91, Subpart K are
subject to the 7.5% ticket tax, $3.20/passenger segment fee, and
4.4 cents/gallon LUST and deficit reduction taxes on fuel - exactly
the same as Part 135 flights. The chart on the next page outlines
the various taxes and fees paid by the general aviation sector.
Your report claims that "business jets in general sell well in
THE FACTS: Despite Europe being similar to the
United States in terms of population, geographic size, and economic
strength, business jets sales there are only a fraction of what
they are in the United States.
Incomplete or Misleading Statements
Your report touts, as
justification for user fees, the fact that the 1997 Mineta
Commission Report recommended that funding for the Federal Aviation
Administration's new Air Traffic Organization (ATO) be "based on
payments for air traffic services paid directly by aviation
THE FACTS: You fail to mention that the same
report states that general aviation should continue to pay its
contribution to ATO funding through the existing general aviation
fuel taxes. In fact, the report explicitly states: "The Commission
recommends a fuel tax for general aviation. A fuel tax is an
efficient, easy to administer revenue collection mechanism." Since
you advocate user fees for general aviation operations involving
turboprops and turbojets, it seems you are quite selective in your
support of the conclusions of the Mineta Commission Report.
As a justification for adopting user fees, your report states
that "nearly all other countries follow the guidelines of the
International Civil Aviation Organization and charge aviation users
directly for air traffic services."
THE FACTS: Your report rejects the actual
weight and distance formulas that are at the foundation of the ICAO
guidelines and that have been adopted by the foreign countries that
charge ATC fees. Frankly, I don't see how you can have it both
ways-advocating the U.S. follow ICAO and the rest of the world in
charging user fees but not follow ICAO and the rest of the world in
the way they charge user fees. In our opinion, the fuel tax is as
good or better a proxy of use of the system as weight-and-distance
You provide a table that compares the number of turbine-powered
general aviation in the United States to the number of mainline and
regional jet airliners in an apparent effort to suggest that
turbinepowered general aviation aircraft place a significant burden
on our nation's ATC system.
THE FACTS: In order to truly understand use of
the system, you must focus on hours flown. Unfortunately, you fail
to mention that commercial airlines typically fly more than four
times as many hours per year as a typical turbine-powered business
aircraft, as illustrated by the FAA data below.
US Total Turbine (airplane) Hours:
- Airlines Carrier: 13,726,000
- Regional Airlines: 6,284,000
- General Aviation: 4,640,000
"FAA Aerospace Forecast, Fiscal Year 2005-2016"
Your report states that
piston operators are not big users of ATC services and should be
exempt from ATC user charges but that jets and turboprops make
"extensive use of air traffic control services" and should thus be
subjected to user fees.
THE FACTS: Turboprops account for only 7.2
percent of all IFR operations while pistons account for 11.2
percent of IFR operations and business jets account for 12.5
percent of IFR operations. If use of ATC services is your criteria
for applying user charges, is does not make sense that you would
advocate subjecting the smallest of the three categories to user
fees but exempt the middle category of users.
In rejecting the fuel tax, your report states that "paying for
ATC via a fuel tax would mean charging far less to an RJ for the
exact same services delivered at a much higher charge to a 767. So
a fuel tax fails the test of being a cost-based user fee, as
recommended by USATS, the Mineta Commission, and nearly all other
THE FACTS: Again, the ICAO guidelines for user
fees and the formulas used by ALL major countries that levy
"cost-based user fees" have weight as a fundamental component of
the charge. Thus, ICAO would also charge RJs a lower fee than a
While I appreciate the significant effort you have put forward
in generating this latest Reason Foundation Report, I felt it
necessary to share with you a small sampling of my concerns. I
would welcome the opportunity to meet with you personally to
discuss the report in more detail.
President and CEO