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Big City Think Tanks Take Aim at Small Town Lifeline
January 28, 2009
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    aaaa_Logo_02   Press Release

    Big City Think Tanks Take Aim at Small Town Lifeline

    For Immediate Release June 23, 2008   On Tuesday, two Washington, D.C. based think tanks – the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Essential Action (EA) — are issuing a so called “report” that is a rehash of the  big airlines’ discredited attacks on general aviation aircraft that are a lifeline to small towns and communities.                                                 For the past two years, the nation’s big airlines have spent millions of dollars on a PR and lobbying campaign designed to help them seize greater control of the air traffic system and shift their costs onto small aircraft.   The report by IPS/EA appears to be the latest chapter in the airlines’ playbook as these Washington, D.C. think tanks mimic the airlines’ dubious data manipulation techniques and parrot their talking points.  Unfortunately for the big airlines though, none of these claims hold up to scrutiny.  In fact, according to Niel Ritchie, President of the League of Rural Voters and Alliance member, “this latest so-called study holds absolutely no water and is a direct attack on rural America to try and prop up the agenda of the big airlines as they try to push for yet another taxpayer-funded bailout.  We urge lawmakers to reject this unfounded rhetoric and stand up for farmers, ranchers and small businesses around the nation that would be decimated by the recommendations of these so-called think tanks.”    Consider the following facts on the latest airline/think tank propaganda and responses from Alliance members:     AIRLINE/THINK TANK PROPAGANDA:  Corporate giants comprise the majority of general aviation aircraft operators.   REALITY:  Eighty-five percent of the companies and organizations that rely on general aviation aircraft are small-to-mid sized businesses which serve as a lifeline to small, mid-sized and rural communities across the country.  General aviation serves medical personnel, construction companies, telecommunication providers, manufacturers, farmers and ranchers, and food suppliers and emergency and natural disaster responders.  These aircraft operate in over 5,000 airports across the country that serve communities that the major airlines mostly ignore.[i]   Mayor Steve Van Oort, Ankeny, IA:  “The truth is that the vast majority of the businesses and organizations that rely on small aircraft are airports, farmers, charitable organizations, doctors and businesses that are the economic backbone of small communities across Iowa and the United States.   These businesses and groups drive local economies, support jobs, and provide crucial resources to these communities.  This latest “study” is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to revive an unpopular tax cut proposal that would hurt rural America.”     AIRLINE/THINK TANK PROPAGANDA:  Travel on small jet aircraft in the United States is exploding.   REALITY:  Flight hours on general aviation aircraft have held steady over the past several years while the commercial airline traffic at hub airports has exploded.[ii]   Steve See, Copiah County Airport Commission, Pattison, MS:  “As any aviation expert can attest, the notion that small aircraft traffic is exploding while commercial airline is decreasing, is patently false.  This is just another falsehood pushed by the commercial airlines to try and justify shifting their tax obligations onto small businesses and organizations that rely on general aviation.”     AIRLINE/THINK TANK PROPAGANDA: U.S. passenger airlines pay over 90% of the taxes going in to the ATC system, yet only use 73% of the services.   REALITY:  According to FAA data (“FY 2005 IRS-Certified Airport and Airways Trust Fund Tax Revenue), this is completely false.  The FAA data show that US passenger airlines actually pay 77% of the costs,[iii] and general aviation aircraft pay approximately 8.6% of the revenues.[iv]  Under bipartisan legislation that has passed the House and is pending in the Senate, GA would pay approximately 11% of the revenues to fund the ATC system for the future.[v]    Keith Laken, Executive Director, LifeLine Pilots:  “This claim has been clearly disproven by FAA’s own data, and is just further evidence that these big-city firms are just parroting the talking points of the big airlines – all to try to justify another huge tax cut for the airlines through the institution of a risky user fee proposal.  Veterans groups, medical charitable groups, and non-profit organizations would take a huge hit under this proposal and as a result would have to dramatically cut back our service to rural communities.”     AIRLINE/THINK TANK PROPAGANDA: The report questions general aviation security standards since 9/11.   REALITY:  General aviation has worked closely with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to develop and implement a comprehensive security infrastructure for general aviation operations.[vi]   Henry M. Ogrodzinski, President and CEO of the National Association of the State Aviation Officials:  “General aviation has been at the forefront of working to institute measures to ensure that we are protecting our nation against security threats.  These measures include checking records for all airmen against no-fly and watch lists, and the establishment of requirements for the searching of suspicious aircraft sales and transactions.”     AIRLINE/THINK TANK PROPAGANDA:  An accelerated depreciation tax incentive is only available for small aircraft.   REALITY:  Accelerated depreciation is available on any major capital equipment purchase, and has helped sustain businesses across the country and keep the tens of thousands of employees at manufacturers across the country on the job.[vii]  Moreover, the IPS/EA study conveniently avoids mentioning the billions in bailouts, loans,[viii] and insurance breaks[ix] that the American taxpayers have given the major airlines.   Karen Kerrigan, President, Small Business Entrepreneurship Council:  “This is a reasonable, common-sense tax cut for small businesses that is not geared toward any one industry, and is available for any major purchase.  Small businesses are the lifeblood to our economy, and without this support, thousands of jobs and industries would be threatened.  As Congress moves forward with the debate on climate change it is essential that it remain sensitive to the needs and concerns of small businesses, particularly given the difficult economic situation many U.S. businesses are currently facing.”     AIRLINE/THINK TANK PROPAGANDA:  Large aircraft are more environmentally friendly than small aircraft.    REALITY:  Commercial airlines have a much larger carbon footprint than general aviation planes, and EPA data states that commercial airlines account for 2% of total US greenhouse gas transportation emissions while general aviation and military planes account for only 0.4%.[x]   Joni Eastley, Commissioner, Nye County, NV:  “Businesses and organizations that use general aviation have been leaders in increasing fuel efficiency, and as a result, the average jet engine is 50% more fuel efficient than decades ago.  We will continue to work with industry and government officials to do everything within our power to encourage optimization of the fuel efficiency of all aircraft.”     THE BOTTOM LINE   The conclusion of the IPS/EA study advocates for the revival of a long-dead, airline-backed proposal for FAA reauthorization.  This proposal would scrap the current system of excise and fuel taxes and create a new and onerous user fee system that would dramatically increasing existing taxes and force general aviation to shoulder millions in the airlines’ tax obligations.  Meanw
    hile the airlines would get a $1 billion tax cut in FY2009.[xi]

    [i] National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS), 2007 – 2011, Federal Aviation Administration, September 29, 2006, [ii] Total General Aviation and Scheduled Aircraft Movements 1997-2005 Federal Aviation Administration [iii] All U.S. passenger airlines combined pay only 77% of taxes into the airport and airways trust fund. “FY 2005 IRS-Certified Airport and Airway Trust Fund Tax Revenue,” FY05 FAA ATO Data Package.   “[A]n internal Air Transport Association document obtained by The Hill indicates U.S. airlines paid about 74 percent of total contributions to the trust fund, and that the 95 percent figure comes only after taking foreign airlines and shippers such as FedEx into account.” “FAA’s air-traffic fee proposal sparks resistance,” The Hill, 4/17/2007. [iv] General aviation currently contributes 8.6% of the taxes that flow into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. “FY 2005 IRS-Certified Airport and Airway Trust Fund Tax Revenue,” FY05 FAA ATO Data Package. [v] H.R. 2881: FAA Reauthorization, [vi] Transportation Security Administration, [vii] General Aviation Manufacturers Association: [viii] Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act, Public Law 107-42 [ix] “Airlines’ Insurance Relief Stirs Administration Debate,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, December 2, 2002. [x] “Planes Fly More…Emit Less Greenhouse Gas” USA Today, 5/9/08 [xi] FAA’s Financing Proposal, Statement of Calvin L. Scovel III, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Transportation, before the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Aviation, U.S. House of Representatives, March 21, 2007,

    Alliance for Aviation Across America2008-06-23