By Larry Meyer
August 31, 2007
Additional fees for users of general aviation are considered serious issues for pilots and small airports, such as the Vale airport (above).
ONTARIO – General aviation operators, pilots, airport operators and businesses that depend on small aviation have banded together to fight a proposal they say would eliminate the fuel tax for airlines but double the fuel levy for general aviation while adding a user fee.
According to the Alliance for Aviation Access Across America, a coalition of people and organizations who support general aviation, Senate Bill No. 1300 reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration but radically changes the FAA funding system.
The legislation would end the 43-cent per gallon fuel tax the airlines pay but boost the fuel tax for general aviation from 21 cents per gallon to 49 cents per gallon.
One major issue for opponents of the legislation is a proposed $25 per flight user fee for all turbine operations. Selena Shilad, spokesperson for the alliance, said the $25 is for each time a plane takes off, so the charge for a flight that has more than one stop could add up.
Among the members of the coalition are four Oregonians who participated in a tele-conference with the Oregon news media, including Bob Bement, a retired school teacher from Vale, who uses his love of flying to help transport ranchers, public safety officials, and businessmen and others to rural communities and remote locations.
“As a pilot operating in a rural area, I transport everything from emergency workers and equipment to ranchers needing to get around Eastern Oregon,” Bement said. “Creating new and higher taxes on pilots like me will make it more difficult to conduct business in rural Oregon.”
Bement said even though he only flies about 120 hours each year, higher user fees could cost $300 a year.
“I won’t be flying any more,” he said.
Travis Stovall, executive director of the East Metro Economic Alliance, another special interest group opposed to the bill, said higher fees could hurt aviation in rural areas.
“We can take a raise in fuel tax, but a user fee is not the way to go,” Stovall said. “General aviation and the opportunity for general aviation aircraft to utilize airports in the community is a huge economic engine.”
Stovall’s organization includes leaders from east Portland, Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview and Wood Village.
Source: ARGUS OBSERVER (OR)