June 18, 2015

Speaking to a gathering of aviation leaders on June 16, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen signaled that a congressional leader had just offered his “clearest statement yet” of an intent to pursue proposals that have long been contrary to the needs of general aviation operators, in a forthcoming House bill to reauthorize the FAA.

Bolen’s comments were made during a panel discussion at the 2015 Aviation Business Conference, hosted by the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) at the Capitol Hill Hyatt Regency.

He noted that just one day earlier, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-9-PA), House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chairman, had formally unveiled his plan to propose an FAA reauthorization bill that would include the imposition of per-flight user fees, and also the removal of Congress from oversight of aviation system funding and governance in favor of decision-making by a new, stand-alone entity.

Shuster outlined these principles for his legislation in a June 15 address before the Aero Club of Washington. His committee has jurisdiction over FAA reauthorization, which sets funding and governance priorities for the agency. The current authorizing legislation expires Sept. 30.

In responding to the principles outlined by the chairman, Bolen said the general aviation community has long agreed that “the nation’s system of airports and airspace belongs to the public,” and must be run for the benefit of the public. “Congressional oversight of the nation’s aviation system ensures that funding and governance decisions are made with the public interest – including the citizens and companies that rely on aviation service in small towns and communities – as the primary focus,” he said.

By stripping Congress of its oversight role, Bolen said, Shuster’s proposal will shift aviation governance to a group of self-interested parties, which would be more focused on aviation service in large, metropolitan areas – ultimately “destroying general aviation,” he added. Such a move would not be the right thing to do, he continued.

“Historically, there has been agreement that taxing authority needs to be with Congress, access to airspace needs to be fair, and the fuel tax is the best way for general aviation to pay for its use of the system.”

Panel moderator and NATA President Tom Hendricks agreed that the Chairman’s anticipated legislation is “cause for concern.”

Bolen concluded by adding: “We need to understand what’s at stake here – it’s the future of our industry. This is about our ability to access airports and airspace in a safe and predictable manner.”

In the days following Shuster’s Aero Club address, Bolen has also been making his concerns known with news outlets. For example, on June 15, he told Bloomberg news that NBAA “opposes any plan that adds new fees for flying and takes away congressional oversight.” Read the Bloomberg News story in its entirety.