Mark Baker, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, on Tuesday said he believes the $100 aviation user fee included in the Obama administration’s proposed budget will again be removed before all is said and done.
But, he added, it likely won’t be the last time the industry faces the possibility of similar takeoff fees.
“We believe user fees will be fought back and put in its proper box, put a ribbon on it, and somebody will open it up again,” Baker said.
Baker was the guest speaker at Tuesday’s meeting of the Wichita Aero Club, where he said such fees counteract the work AOPA is doing to encourage more participation in flying by promoting it as still being an affordable pursuit.
General aviation, he says, already pays its fair share through the aviation fuel tax. Adding more fees will hurt an industry still trying to get back on its feet.
“Why do you want to put more burden on an already stressed industry?” he asked.
Baker, who himself piloted AOPA’s Cessna Citation CJ3 into Wichita for Tuesday’s meeting, says he has long known the value of aircraft as a business tool.
But a goal of AOPA’s is to show aviation can still be a recreational pursuit.
And that goes beyond just getting new people into the air.
Baker said there are an estimated 1.5 million people under the age of 75 in the U.S. that were at one point involved in aviation that no longer are.
Re-engaging that population, he said, represents an opportunity for the industry.
But one of the primary reasons many of those people left in the first place was cost.
And between user fees and potentially deep cuts in funding to the Federal Aviation Administration — costs that the industry will be asked to offset one way or another — talking with all stakeholders about the true costs of aviation and how best to cover them will be important for the industry’s future.