By Emily Luxen
SMYRNA, Tenn.—It could soon cost more for some aircraft to fly the friendly skies.
In President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget, he is proposing a $100 per flight user fee. The fee would apply to general aviation aircraft like medical, cargo and charter flights.
The budget states, “All flights that use controlled air space require a similar level of air traffic services. However, commercial and general aviation can pay very different aviation fees for those same air traffic services. To reduce the deficit and more equitably share the cost of air traffic services across the aviation user community, the Administration proposes to create a $100 per flight fee, payable to the Federal Aviation Administration, by aviation operators who fly in controlled airspace. All piston aircraft, military aircraft, public aircraft, air ambulances, aircraft operating outside of controlled airspace, and Canada-to-Canada flights would be exempted. This fee would generate an estimated $7.4 billion over 10 years.”
However, opposition is building locally and nationally. Petitions are circulating on the internet, and officials at the Smyrna Rutherford County Airport are voicing their concerns.
“Our job is to make the airport grow and support the local community,” said Executive Director John Black, “We don’t want to see anything that will detract from that.”
Black said the majority of the around 200 aircraft that fly in and out of the airport would be paying the additional fees. He believes this would not only hurt traffic at the airport, but impact the community overall.
“Less flights mean less fuel sold, which means less maintenance, which means less jobs basically. It is all about jobs.”
Company executives of the charter flight business, Corporate Flight Management, are also opposed to the proposed fees. All of the company’s aircraft would be charged, adding up to an additional $500,000 a year for the company to pay annually.
“We would either have to cut into our margins,” said CEO of Corporate Flight Management, Leon Custers, “or we would have to pass it onto the customer which may force them to use an alternate form of transportation.”
Opponents are hopeful the budget will not pass, and are reaching out to legislators to voice their concerns.
“It has been proposed before and taken off the table,” said Black, “We hope that is what happens again.”
The Alliance for Aviation Across America reports the businesses at the Smyrna-Rutherford County Airport generate about $44 million a year, which results in a boost of about $27 million a year into the local economy.