User Fees: The never ending saga

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User Fees – The Never Ending Saga:
Wednesday Sept 12 the Small Business Committee of the House of Representatives convened with strong opposition to aviation user fees, but there are still indications that some members will continue to push for the change.

Panelist and university professor Kenneth J. Button, PhD was a major proponent of user fees citing some worn-out economic principles that are better described as putting square pegs into round holes.

Graves is a pilot and an advocate for G.A.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo), Martha King, Marian Epps, and Rep. Allen West (R-Fl) all testified in opposition to the user fee proposal. Rep. West grilled Button stating ‘It looks to me this is a solution looking for a problem.’
Furthermore, the industry has already come up with a solution buy simply increasing the tax already present on fuel. This would certainly be more efficient than standing up another agency to administer and collect fees – of course the airlines might not be so enamored with that idea with their fuel-hungry jumbo jets

User Fees are bad for a variety of reasons
User fees will have the affect of stifling General Aviation (G.A.) – and if you think that the current proposal of $100 per flight for turbine aircraft is where it will stop, you would be wrong. Once the camel gets his head in the tent it’s game over. That’s because the bureaucracy that will have to be put into place to administer the program will chew up some much of the revenue that they will need to expand the program to us little guys to keep the budget balanced (or fund other unrelated gov’t programs).

The Big Boys
You might think the airlines and charter operators are going to help with this fight; I regret to inform you that they don’t care – its a pass-through cost that goes right to the customers and the corporate flight departments will only see this as a nuisance, but little more.

What’s wrong with the current scheme?
Currently the infrastructure is paid for by taxing aviation fuel. The problem, as I understand it, is the money from that tax goes into the ‘general fund’ so it gets tapped to offset other loss-leading government programs. As stated above, we have even volunteered as an industry to increase this tax, but that isn’t good enough for those that are convinced that we need to get rid of those pesky little airplanes.

What will happen?
If you want to know what will happen when user fees get a foothold in the U.S., just look at G.A. in Europe. It is incredibly small compared to what we have over here. Plus our industry is already under the gun due to the economy coupled with the price of fuel.

Once user fees kick in, the contraction of G.A. in America will accelerate exponentially. Then the infrastructure will start to crumble, small operators and businesses will vanish, small airports won’t get federal funding due to lack of use and/or interest and more mini-malls will be built over the top of our runways. Count on 100LL getting more expensive too, because the volume will be way down.

This loss of infrastructure will create traffic issues at the few big airports that are left, forcing a slot system to be put into place to handle the congestion and more fees – just like Europe.

The fee schedule below is based on an AOPA study of a trip from England to Germany – just a private pilot on a short IFR cross-country in a light twin.

Wx briefing – $7.80
Flt Plan – $4.68
Departure fees – $121.60
Approach fees $22.10ea
Landing fees $55.69
Total fees only – $233.97

Oh and Fuel prices roughly $11.00 per gallon.

Can you image having a flight school in Europe? Touch and goes and practice approaches for training or currency take on a whole new meaning when each one is a TRANSACTION!

What can you do?
You need to make sure your are actively engaging your local Senator and Represenative to make sure they represent you appropriately. Also be sure that you are a member of both AOPA and EAA, these groups put a lot of energy on Capitol Hill so your voice  is heard.

Let us know what you think below in the comments section.

– Brent

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