The Experimental Aircraft Association is asking a federal appeals court to block the Federal Aviation Administration’s demand for payment for air traffic control services during this year’s AirVenture convention.
In May, the FAA told EAA officials the cost for 87 air traffic controllers and supervisors to come to Oshkosh for AirVenture would be $447,000. Other general aviation events have also been billed for FAA services this year as the agency seeks to absorb a 5 percent across the board federal spending decrease.
Last month, AirVenture made a partial payment with the remaining sum to be paid after the FAA completes its duties at the convention. However, EAA officials and members of the state’s congressional delegation have questioned the FAA’s authority to impose user fees on general aviation gatherings.
In a request for judicial review filed Wednesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, the EAA argues that pilots attending the event already pay fuel taxes that pay for the national air-traffic control system. In addition, the organization claims that Congress specifically barred the FAA from imposing new user fees in the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013, legislation that was enacted to give the FAA flexibility in making budget cuts to prevent major disruptions of air travel.
EAA is asking the appeals court to reverse the FAA’s decision to demand the payment and to order the return of the money already paid.
“While we understand the FAA’s position and the temptation to augment its congressional appropriation, we naturally don’t agree since we believe this approach unlawfully circumvents congressional approval and standard due process,” EAA Chairman Jack J. Pelton said in a statement. “This affects AirVenture and numerous other aviation events throughout the nation in an unauthorized and unjustified manner. That is why we are seeking review, relief, and clarification from the court.”
FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said in an email Friday he couldn’t comment on pending legal actions.
AirVenture each years draws thousands of airplanes to Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh for the EAA’s annual convention and airshows. Air-traffic contollers handle about 20,000 takeoffs and landings at the airport during the convention’s one-week run.
This year AirVenture will be held from July 29 to Aug. 4.