By Jesse Chaney
Fort Morgan Airport users, along with the rest of the country’s general aviation community, may soon pay more to fly.
The U.S. Senate’s proposed version of the Federal Aviation Administration funding reauthorization bill would place user fees on members of the general aviation community and significantly increase the fuel tax for many small airplane pilots, according to Mara Lee, spokesperson of the Alliance for Aviation Across America.
The proposal calls for an increase of fuel tax from 21 to 49 cents for those who use Jet A, which is a type of fuel used by about half of the general aviation community, she said.
The proposal would also provide airlines with a multi-million dollar tax break, which could total $1 billion in airline savings over the five-year reauthorization period, if passed, Lee said.
“We as the Alliance and as the general aviation community have come out strongly against this version of the Senate bill,” she said, “because it gives the airlines a multi-million dollar tax break at the expense of general aviation and all the businesses and all the communities that depend on all the services that general aviation provides.”
The extra fees and taxes would negatively affect local economic development and the availability of health services in Morgan County, Vernon Tryon, chairman of the Fort Morgan Airport advisory committee, said.
“Our airport is used for a variety of business, health and economic development reasons,” he said. “I think a lot more than people imagine.”
Tryon said the Fort Morgan Airport is often used to transport medical patients to and from Fort Morgan, and doctors occasionally use the airport to provide services in the area.
Doctors use the Sterling, Yuma and Wray airports about every week, he said.
“That’s a pretty pricey proposition, and adding some more fuel tax to that is going to affect the cost of transporting doctors for health care,” he said.
Tryon said the increased cost of flying would also hurt economic development in Morgan County, as businessmen would either have to pay more to fly to Fort Morgan or use an airline and drive to Morgan County from Denver.
Additionally, the increased costs may also prevent some from pursuing aviation careers, Tryon said.
Aspiring pilots easily spend $40,000 obtaining their licenses as it is, he said, and it would cost even more to get the licenses if the proposed bill passed.
“Everybody thinks airline pilots make a ton of money, but that’s just the captains of jumbo jets,” he said. “The people starting out barely make a living.”
The Senate and the House passed an extension to the previous FAA funding bill earlier this year. The extension expires Nov. 16, at which time Congress will have to pass a new bill or another extension.
Source: FORT MORGAN TIMES (CO)