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Thu, Jun 06, 2013

FAA Not Budging On AirVenture Controller Decision

Wisconsin Senators Send Letter To Michael Huerta Urging Reconsideration

AirVenture is not just a big deal to the aviation community, or even the city of Oshkosh, WI. Estimates are that the week-long "Worlds Greatest Aviation Celebration" has a $110 million economic impact on the state. So when the FAA demanded that EAA pony up about a half million dollars to pay for air traffic controllers to work the show, it got the attention of the state's two U.S. Senators.

Senators Tammy Baldwin (D) (pictured, left) and Ron Johnson (R) (pictured, right)  have been working to marshal support in the U.S. Senate for a letter being prepared for delivery to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. The effort came after a conversation with EAA Chairman Jack Pelton, who according to the Green Bay Press Gazette has said asking for payment in advance for Air Traffic Control services for the show is like holding EAA hostage. If the organization does not pay up, the FAA says, they will not send air traffic controllers to staff what is, for one week, the world's busiest control tower.

In the letter, which is posted on the EAA website, the Senators write "Ensuring the safe and efficient movement of the 10,000 aircraft that participate in this event is made possible by FAA air traffic control services. For this reason, we are deeply concerned about FAA’s decision to begin charging major aviation events for air traffic services. General aviation already pays its share of FAA air traffic services for all of its flight activities, including events like AirVenture, through an aviation fuel excise tax. This excise tax has not been reduced and general aviation continues to pay for these services. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel tax revenue will be generated by flights associated with the movement of 10,000 aircraft across the country to Oshkosh alone.

"This shift in policy by the FAA to charge fees for air traffic services is tantamount to an imposition of a new user fee on general aviation. Through the appropriations process, Congress has previously made clear its opposition to new user fees. Further, the FAA was the only federal agency to be given flexibility in addressing the impacts of sequestration. As such, for the FAA to demand additional payments for items that have been budgeted for in previous years is completely unacceptable."

Senators Baldwin and Johnson have already gotten the support of at least 27 of their Senate colleagues for the effort.

Pelton has said that AirVenture will go on as scheduled this year, even if they have to sign the FAA's contract for services and pay the fee. But, he told the paper, it has not been so much like a negotiation with the federal government as a demand for payment.

EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski said that the organization is concerned about how smaller air shows might be affected by similar demands.

FMI: www.eaa.org, Read the Letter

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