By Anita Miller
When thunderheads rise in the distance and private pilots need to find out about the forecast, it’s a simple matter to contact a nearby airport for the latest weather information.
Under legislation pending in both houses of Congress it would still be easy; but the pilot would be charged for the service. And not only that, the fee he or she paid would be used to fund services they don’t even use.
“User fees” could also be charged anytime a pilot landed, took off or used other services of general aviation airports like San Marcos Municipal Airport under the “Next Generation Air Transportation System Financing Reform Act of 2007,” said San Marcos’ new airport manager.
“If that passes it just adds a great deal of expense for general aviation pilots,” said Kenny Johns. “I’m afraid what it would do is cripple general aviation for the most part.”
The fees are part of a new structure to fund the Federal Aviation Administration that Johns and Airport Commission member Allyn Gill said would benefit commercial airlines at the direct expense of private pilots.
At its meeting earlier this week the commission passed a resolution opposing the legislation and will present it to city council, something that is also happening in other communities.
“We’re going to ask they use their influence to recommend this legislation not pass,” Gill said. “I’m sure they’re not going to be in favor of it.”
Gill said the new fees would “fund such things as the air traffic control system and airport security, things like that. Private aviation doesn’t use those things that much, so to impose a fee for each flight a general aviation airplane makes is just really a killer for the industry.”
Though much of the traffic at San Marcos Municipal Airport consists of private pilots flying for business or pleasure, it is increasingly being used by corporate jets. “Barry Aviation has a number of flights that go every day regardless,” Gill said, mentioning McCoy Corporation.
Johns predicts corporate use will increase, as the airport is scheduled to get a tower next year. “This could affect us greatly and the number of flights we get in.”
Gill said there is “lots of opposition” to the legislation but said it’s anybody’s guess if it will pass. “I don’t know what its chances are, whether it’s a thing that would have a 50 percent chance of passing. I really don’t know what current predictions are.”
But, he added, “I feel that (Congress) will really come to their senses and not pass it, but who knows?”
Source: SAN MARCOS DAILY RECORD