Sustained investment in the nation’s airport infrastructure, and a continuing view of all airports as part of a national aviation-transportation network, are paramount to maintaining America’s world-leading aviation system, National Business Aviation Association President and CEO Ed Bolen told lawmakers in written testimony submitted at a congressional hearing yesterday (Wednesday 18th).
“Airports are a key component in our transportation system, and they are a very important element in business aviation operations,” Bolen said in his testimony, provided for a hearing on airport financing and development held by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Aviation.
“There are about 5,000 public-use airports in the U.S., and business aircraft are able to fly into most of them. Business aviation relies heavily on secondary and tertiary airports.”
“It’s worth noting that these smaller airports don’t just benefit business aviation,” Bolen added. “Local airports serve a critical role in supporting flights for schools, universities, agricultural services, emergency medical services, postal services, fire and rescue teams, law enforcement and other services. The airports are also local economic engines, bringing people and goods from communities to national and global markets, stimulating local economic growth.”
Bolen identified three key priorities for maintaining and enhancing the nation’s airport system, including a strong federal commitment to the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) – a funding mechanism that recognizes changing needs at airports, including demand, the types and sizes of aircraft using an airport, and necessary safety and efficiency improvements.
Airports must also be equipped to meet national economic and other objectives, Bolen added. “Like other modes of transportation, airports big and small are economic engines for communities, encouraging business investment and creating opportunities for economic growth,” he said, adding that congress should take “all necessary steps” to protect and maintain both commercial and general aviation airports.
Bolen also emphasized that federal support for these airports must include continuing opposition to local attempts to curb access to, or close facilities.
“Given that we view our system as a national one in terms of funding decisions, it also stands to reason that we should view it as a national one when it comes to operational matters,” he stated. “However, over the years, attempts have been made to create new restrictions and impediments for aviation users through airport curfews and other local initiatives to restrict access to airports.”
In conclusion, Bolen thanked members of the subcommittee for their continued focus on aviation, and airports, as a national asset.
“One of our nation’s greatest strengths is the size, diversity, efficiency and safety of our aviation system, and the members of this subcommittee understand the central role of America’s national airport network in that system,” he said.
Bolen thanks House GA Caucus for steadfast opposition to user fees
In further news, Ed Bolen has thanked the leaders of the House General Aviation Caucus for their continued support of “one of America’s greatest industries,” and repeated opposition to proposals that would be harmful to general aviation, including user fees.
Bolen provided his comments in a briefing provided by leaders with several GA organizations, conducted for Capitol Hill staff with House lawmakers serving in, or interested in joining, the GA Caucus. The briefing focused on some of the major policy concerns confronting the GA industry.
“General aviation provides over 1.2 million jobs – good manufacturing and service jobs – and also supports tens of thousands of American businesses,” Bolen explained to a capacity crowd in a Capitol Hill hearing room. “General aviation serves the nation’s communities by providing vital air transportation, and also helps in times of need, by providing medical evacuations, and responding to natural disasters.”
Bolen thanked lawmakers in the GA Caucus, and their staff, for fighting off repeated proposals to impose user fees on general aviation, most recently in President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 federal spending proposal, released in March. That proposal was opposed by the chairman and ranking member of the House GA Caucus, a move welcomed by NBAA and other GA groups.
“From the business aviation perspective, we have always maintained that anything a user fee can do, a fuel tax can do better, and more efficiently – and that benefits both the government and users of the system, from large companies to small businesses and individuals,” Bolen said.
“None of us likes paying taxes, and we don’t want to pay more than is necessary, but we would like the tax mechanism to be as efficient as possible,” Bolen added. “We think the general aviation fuel taxes are the single-best way to generate revenue to support the aviation system.”
For example, Bolen said, “A fuel tax is prepaid by the user, which makes avoidance impossible. The fuel tax requires no new bureaucracy – no ‘Sky-R-S’ – to ensure everyone pays for using the aviation system. A fuel tax does not burden the operator with situations that can distract from safety, by introducing decisions about whether or not to incur additional flight services.”
Bolen also noted that a fuel tax imposes no new administrative cost burden on operators to file, is well understood and accepted by users, and actually incentivizes operators to make their aircraft use as fuel-efficient as possible, which in turn benefits the environment with lower emissions.
Before concluding, Bolen added that while user fees are among the major threats to general aviation, Congress also needs to continue supporting America’s network of airports – including those used by general aviation. “GA airports facilitate mobility, business and commerce, providing economic development opportunities and vital air transportation services, especially in smaller communities with little or no airline service,” Bolen said. “We need to continue supporting these airports, at the federal level, as part of a single, national aviation-transportation system.”
As an example of a recent concern in this area, Bolen referred to a congressional vote taken earlier this month on a noise-curfew amendment for a reliever airport in southern California. While the outcome of the vote on the amendment affirmed the need to keep all airports operating as part of a national system, “that amendment was a reminder that there are ongoing attempts from local interests to compromise the national nature of our aviation system,” Bolen said.
In concluding, Bolen said: “NBAA and its Members have long been united with the rest of the general aviation community in supporting the fuel tax and opposing user fees. We thank the GA Caucus, and many others in Congress, for hearing our industry’s voice about the user-fee threat, the need to preserve our national system of airports and other important issues. We look forward to continuing our work with the caucus on policies that help promote an essential American industry.”