By Andy Goodell
August 13, 2007
A hike in the cost to fly small-engine aircraft could impact those who fly in and out of the Creston Municipal Airport .
Two Federal Aviation Administration-backed “reauthorization” bills – one before the U.S. Senate and one before the Congress – would increase user fees and taxes on general-aviation flights, which excludes commercial-airline traffic, said Creston Municipal Airport Manager Larry West.
“The airlines are wanting to control the system, and put the load on general aviation,” West said. “This is an airlines versus general-aviation thing.”
Proposed fees and tax
Air traffic landing at, and taking off from, Creston Municipal Airport are all general aviation, and would be subject to the tax increase and user fee if the bills pass.
The user fee would be put in place for all aircraft utilizing air-traffic-controller services.
“One calls for a $25 user fee for turbine-powered aircraft per flight,” West said. “On top of that, there will be an increase in federal taxes from 25 percent to 125 percent.”
West said commercial airlines would have to pay the $25 user fee, as well, but that it would work in their favor because the average commercial flight comes with a $157 user fee.
The user fee would be put in place for those who utilize air-traffic controllers when flying in or out of any airport.
Area businesses, including Bunn-O-Matic, DeBruce Grain and Michael’s Foods, utilize Creston Municipal Airport regularly and would feel the brunt of the tax and user-fee increases.
“Some of these businesses fly up and fly home two times daily, and that can end up costing hundreds of dollars every week,” West said.
Not just plane pilots
When asked who would be impacted by the tax increase and user fee, Creston Municipal Airport Board President Kevin Glick said people other than pilots could find themselves paying more.
“If it’s a charter flight, the charter company would have to pass that increase on to the customer to recoup their expenses,” he said. “They’re going to turn it right to the consumer.”
West and Glick said pilots participating in Creston’s Balloon Days in September would not be subject to user-fee or tax increases because of the kind of fuel they use and lack of air-traffic controller use.
West said a proposed aircraft regular-fee increase from $5 to $137 would certainly impact balloon pilots if one or more of the reauthorization bills passes.
Although the tax and user fees are not necessarily unfair, West said, collecting the user fee is an added bureaucratic measure.
“It’s just one more huge expense, not unlike car gas prices,” he said.
Glick said user fees for small-engine pilots in foreign countries have had negative results
“They’ve done this overseas and it’s really impacted small-time pilots,” Glick said. “Some pilots just quit. All the guys like myself and people that are flying for recreational purposes hang it up and say, ‘I can’t afford it anymore.'”
Potential grant impact
West said Creston Municipal Airport receives federal airport-improvement funding each year. The federal government currently provides 95 percent of $150,000 to the airport.
“If one or the other of these bills passes, that may be cut,” he said. “We could still bring it up to safety codes, but we would not be able to improve our airport the way we want to.”
Glick said grant money the airport receives comes from existing aircraft fuel taxes, but that the bill would tax pilots in other areas.
“The consensus is we want to keep it in the fuel,” said Glick. “That seems to me to be the simplest way to do it.”
West urged anyone concerned about the proposed reauthorization bills to contact their local congress people.
Source: CRESTON NEWS ADVERTISER