By Richard Holbert
LITTLE ROCK – In an age of modern conveniences, Arkansas’ small business owners must continually find new ways to provide customers with quality service quickly. While the techniques of running a small business may change, the essential tools do not. Whether transporting products or moving personnel, a great method is to use the sky. As the delays continue to pile up for commercial airlines, a large number of small business owners rely on their own airplanes to keep their business competitive not only in the cities, but in the rural communities as well.
Since 1939, we at Central Flying Service have aided small businesses and local pilots with everything they needto remain competitive. We offer charter services to businesses that do not own planes and offer maintenance services to small airplane operators all across the state. For up-and-coming aviators, we also offer pilot training programs in conjunction with Utah Valley State College and Pulaski Technical College to allow students to work towards their college degree, providing our country with some of the best airline and private pilots in the skies today.
But these benefits are now under attack by the major airline companies. The airlines have influenced members of the Senate to introduce a proposal which calls for a massive tax increase on small plane owners and pilots while slashing the contributions of the major airlines. The Senate’s proposal calls forthousands of general aviation users to pay a flat tax per flight, (called a “user fee”) relying on the misguided assumption that a small aircraft carrying 3 people should pay the same amount in taxes as a commercial jet liner carrying 300.
In addition to the “user fees” tax, the fuel tax that is already paid by all general aviation users will double for pilots who fly turbines, from $.21 per gallon to $.49 per gallon. While general aviation gets pummeled by new taxes, commercial airlines will realize a massive tax break. The fuel tax commercial airlines now pay would be eliminated completely, saving the airlines an estimated $500 million annually.
If this proposal is enacted, it will be detrimental to small businesses andcommunities not only in Arkansas, but throughout the nation. The taxes placed on general aviation may force some small business owners who use planes to be permanently grounded, cutting off business and interaction between customers and suppliers. Because the major airlines only provide service to 30 hub airports, general aviation is relied upon to service the nearly 5,000 non-hub airports throughout the country.
Here in Arkansas, of our 91 airports, only six are served by some form of commercial airlines and only two of those with any significant service. Planes serving the other 85 airports are essential to our economy and to the communities and businesses who rely on these airports for access otherparts of the country. At Central Flying Service, we have over 240 employees that have served the general aviation community and our local economy well. Businesses like mine exist all over this country, and are essential to these small cities not served by the airlines.
If user fees are supported in Congress, Arkansas’ economy will be adversely affected as general aviation struggles to flourish under these new tax burdens. It is essential that the financial gain of the airline industry does not come at the expense of the hard-working small business owners and employees here at home.
Richard N. Holbert is president of Central Flying Service in Little Rock. Founded in 1939, it is Arkansas’ oldest general aviation business.
Source: ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE