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Progress, But Long Way to Go in User Fee Fight

By Ed Bolen

Last summer, the airlines tried to blame everything and everyone, especially general aviation (GA), for the worst delays since the federal government began keeping track of on-time airline operations.

The record-setting airline delays have become a part of the debate over "reauthorization" (or funding) for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The airlines have looked to the reauthorization as an opportunity to shift billions of their costs onto general aviation, impose user fees and take over control of the nation's aviation system.

To fight back, NBAA spent the summer talking with dozens of newspaper reporters and editorial board writers across the country to discuss the real reasons for airline delays and the threat posed by user fees. We’ve challenged allegations the airlines have made about business aviation in their in-flight magazines. We’ve placed ads in the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. And we’ve held forums at the NBAA 60th Annual Meeting & Convention and other venues to alert the industry to the threat from the airlines and mobilize our community into action.

We’ve also taken our case directly to Congress – Steve Brown, NBAA senior vice president, operations (and former FAA associate administrator, Air Traffic Services) testified in September before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Aviation that delays are "a self-inflicted wound" by the airlines.

Although it is difficult to say what Congress will finally decide in the debate over FAA reauthorization, NBAA is encouraged by the growing focus in Washington on the general aviation community's top priority: funding the FAA and modernizing the aviation system by building upon the proven fuel tax system. In September, the House approved an FAA funding and modernization bill (HR 2881) that drew NBAA praise for rejecting user fees and instead building upon the fuel tax to raise more funds for modernization. A second FAA funding measure, approved in September by the Senate Finance Committee, takes the same approach.

In spite of these recent actions by some in Congress to support FAA funding and system modernization through the ultra-efficient fuel tax, we still have a long road ahead. A prominent Capitol Hill newspaper reported recently that the airlines had spent $11 million on their campaign to vilify our industry in hopes of securing their agenda, and they are not likely to quit until the last vote is counted.

As a result, the outcome of the legislative fight is far from assured. Every voice in the GA community will need to be heard on this critical issue. NBAA will continue to work with the entire general aviation community to oppose user fees in any form, preserve the fuel tax for aviation system modernization and support proposals for transforming the system that will benefit everyone.

To learn more and take action, visit NBAA's Online Advocacy Center at Your voice is important, so make sure it is heard.