By Jerry Siebenmark
A House bill for funding the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t have the bite that Wichita’s general aviation manufacturers feared it would. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007, which passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee late this week, calls for spending nearly $13 billion for air traffic control modernization and $15.8 billion for improvements to the nation’s airports.
But it doesn’t make general aviation operators pay user fees to fund air traffic control improvements.
User fees, which the FAA asked for in a legislative proposal to the House earlier this year, “would have been potentially devastating” to owners of aircraft and the companies that make them, Jack Pelton, Cessna Aircraft Co.’ s chief executive, said Friday.
The House bill eliminates user fees and instead raises taxes on airplane fuel to help fund air traffic control improvements.
Pelton said there’s little opposition by his industry to raising the fuel tax because there have been no inflationary increases to it since the tax was first levied in 1992.
The bill calls for raising the fuel tax by 9 cents a gallon for jets and 5 cents a gallon for turboprops and piston-engine airplanes.
“It’s a moderate increase,” Pelton said.
Airlines, however, are disappointed by the bill.
James May, chief executive of the Air Transport Association, which represents U.S. airlines, said in a statement Friday that the bill “imposes a multibillion- dollar new tax on airline passengers and does not stop requiring passengers from subsidizing elite corporate-jet fliers.”
“Nevertheless, we will continue to work with all parties on crafting a final result that rejects the current unfair passenger subsidy of corporate jets,” May said.
The bill was introduced by Democratic and Republican leaders of the House transportation committee and aviation subcommittee. It awaits a full vote of the House.
Though Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, has not reviewed the bill in detail, chances are good that he will support it when it comes up for a vote in the House, said his spokesman, Chuck Knapp.
“He was pleased to see there was no inclusion of the general aviation user-fee scheme,” Knapp said.
If the House approves the bill, it will move to the Senate, which has its own version of an FAA reauthorization bill.
The Senate version includes a provision that calls for an air traffic control fee of $25 for each flight by business jets and turboprops.
It’s likely that because the Senate and House have separate bills, both will go to a conference committee where senators and House members will attempt to iron out the differences.
That’s why neither Pelton nor Ed Bolen, chief executive of the National Business Aviation Association, are declaring victory just yet.
“At some point the two roads intersect and become one,” Bolen said. “So it’s still got a long way to go.”
Reach Jerry Siebenmark at 316-268-6576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: WICHITA EAGLE