Operators of personal and corporate jets are against a proposal by Congress that would charge them a new fee to fund the next generation air traffic control system.
Congress is taking into account how to pay for the GPS-controlled system, which will be implemented around 2014, as it considers the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration’s budget. A bill pending in the House (H.R. 2881) would call on general aviation pilots to pay a higher surcharge on their fuel. The Senate version (S. 1300), however, proposes a user fee of $25 per flight for higher-end general aviation users, such as corporate jets.
“We must modernize air traffic control systems and build new runways in order to keep commerce and people moving everywhere,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who is co-sponsoring the Senate bill, in a statement. “The only way to pay for these improvements is to spread the cost fairly among all users of the system.” Rockefeller said the surcharge could generate about $400 million in revenue for the next generation system. General aviation advocacy groups such as the Frederick, Md.-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the D.C.-based National Business Aviation Association have endorsed the House bill and slammed the Senate bill, saying it will put an undue burden on general aviation jet owners. While planes powered by a piston engine are not affected by the fee, any turbine-powered plane would be subject to it.
“We’re very supportive of modernization and we’re willing to pay more to facilitate modernization, but it’s important that we be allowed to pay through the fuel tax,” NBAA Chief Executive Officer Ed Bolen said.
Bolen said the user charges would add additional hidden administrative costs, and aircrafts that make four stops in a day would face a pile of fees if the legislation passes.
AOPA is also concerned that the user fees would be overseen by a board dominated by commercial airlines representatives, rather than simply Congress, spokeswoman Kathleen Vasconcelos said. Also, AOPA is concerned piston-powered planes could be subject to the fee as well.
Congress has until Sept. 30 to act on the reauthorization.
Source: THE EXAMINER