February 27, 2012 By: Leigh Kreimeier Stuttgart, Ark. – The Alliance for Aviation Across America (AAAA) has released a letter signed by over 100 mayors and town managers – including Stuttgart Mayor Marianne Maynard – from 48 different states to President Barack Obama.
The letter highlights the critical importance of general aviation to the national and local economies, and raises concerns about proposed new tax burdens which would impact small businesses and organizations around the country that depend on this form of transportation. The letter comes after the release of the President’s FY 2013 budget plan, which proposes a $100 per flight fee on certain segments of general aviation.
“The $100 per flight user fee would be less traffic, less people traveling doing business,” Stuttgart Municipal Airport Manager Carl Humphrey said. “You will have people trying to get away without paying, with no contact to radar and bad weather.”
Humphrey said this will cut out many smaller operators who would normally use the system daily.
“It would reduce traffic with flight training with Little Rock or Memphis. It won’t effect airlines,” he explained. “It would slow users especially with the aviation gas rising.”
The national average is over $6 a gallon for small airplanes and jet fuel is at $5.55 gallon, according to Humphrey.
“So with high fuel prices compounded with more user fees it would slow our economy greatly,” he said. “Aviation in Arkansas was the No. 1 exporter in the state, but that is slowly dwindling.”
Thirty-six states across the country have passed proclamations recognizing the impact of aviation or general aviation to local communities around the nation.
The mayors signed the letter to express the concern that the President’s comments about general aviation in recent weeks and months have not only mischaracterized these aircraft and their importance for our economy, but have suggested that the businesses and communities that depend on this form of transportation can afford an increased tax burden for general aviation operators.
“We write to let you know that for thousands of towns and communities like ours around the country, general aviation is a vital part of our economy and national infrastructure, and we are extremely concerned about the repercussions of your statements on this important lifeline to communities around the nation,” read the letter Maynard signed.
General aviation supports 1.2 million American jobs, over $150 billion in economic impact annually and is a vital economic engine for the national economy. However, it is also a struggling industry – in just the first six months of 2011, there has been a 15.5 percent drop in general aviation aircraft shipments, and billings for general aviation have dropped 22.3 percent. Since 2008, manufacturers have also laid off roughly 20,000 workers, which is additionally concerning given that the general aviation industry remains one of the only sectors in U.S. manufacturing that still contributes positively to the balance of trade.
General aviation aircraft and the airports they utilize are a literal lifeline to their communities, providing access for business growth, law enforcement, disaster relief, medical care and other services. They are utilized to help transport blood and organs to residents in rural communities, reunite veterans back from overseas with their families and help our companies to reach customers in markets that otherwise could not be reached.
The vast majority of businesses and organizations that own and utilize general aviation are not wealthy CEOs. Rather, 85 percent are small to mid-sized businesses and organizations that rely on these aircraft to reach far-off plants and customers, serve rural markets without access to commercial aviation or deliver medical care and other services. These aircraft are a crucial tool and resource for businesses in the communities; businesses that keep the communities afloat and help workers to be able to continue to put food on their table for their families, according to the AAAA.
Source: STUTTGART DAILY LEADER