PRESIDENT'S PERSPECTIVE

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'Summer Heat' Defines Airlines' Increased Effort to Shift Costs, Impose User Fees

As predicted, the airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are spending the summer accelerating their efforts to convince Congress to shift massive costs onto general aviation (GA) and impose a user fee system under the guise of modernizing the Air Traffic Control (ATC) system.

In the process, the rhetoric is matching the summer heat. As incredible as it sounds, the Air Transport Association, the airlines' lobbying group, has been running a massive campaign designed to blame the season's unprecedented airline operational and scheduling problems on GA. Anyone familiar with how ATC operates understands that general aviation isn't even mentioned among the top reasons for flight delays in data published by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Instead, most delays are caused by weather and the airlines' own business practices.

Importantly, the airlines have been trying to enlist consumers and frequent fliers in repeating this deceptive charge to members of Congress via e-mails to frequent fliers and articles in airline in-flight magazines. The carriers' ploy is a cynical attempt to capitalize on the understandable frustrations of airline passengers with misinformation. In the end, the ATC funding proposals supported by the airlines would neither benefit consumers in the form of lower airline ticket prices, nor provide more funds for ATC modernization.

For example, the FAA's own proposal for aviation system funding, backed by the airlines, would reduce FAA funding by some $600 million. In a separate Senate funding proposal (S.1300), the airlines' support would vastly increase costs for GA, while recommending a tax break for the carriers worth millions, and implementing a $25 per-flight user fee. The airlines recently introduced a third funding proposal, which is little more than a thinly disguised grab for yet another tax break.

To date, only the bipartisan House proposal, H.R. 2881, gets it right. This proposal, which the airlines strongly oppose, recognizes that the current GA fuel taxes can be adjusted to provide for ATC modernization. The bill's co-sponsors agree with general aviation that user fees are not needed for system transformation.

Even though opposition to user fees is strong, the fight is far from over. As we look to the rest of summer and the rapidly approaching fall legislative season, every voice in the GA community will need to be heard on this critical issue. NBAA will continue to work with the entire GA community to oppose user fees in any form, and work toward approaches to aviation system modernization that benefit everyone.

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