Aircraft User Fees

And why general aviation pilots and businesses should be fighting back.

There’s been a lot of talk — and fighting against — the Bush Administration’s “Next Generation Air Transportation System Financing Reform Act of 2007.” I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have all the details. But here are a few things that seem pretty clear to me.

Higher Fees Hurt Business

The User Fee system proposed by the Bush Administration may severely cut the activities of general aviation pilots. According to AOPA President Phil Boyer, “Nine out of 10 AOPA members have told us that this would reduce, curtail, or end their flying.” What’s that going to do for the aviation industry? As current pilots who can no longer afford to fly regularly sell off their aircraft, the used aircraft market becomes flooded. Fewer people will be buying new aircraft, so manufacturers will suffer. Suppliers to those manufacturers will suffer, as will employees all around.

As costs increase for general aviation businesses like flight schools, charter services, and tour outfits, those costs get passed along to consumers. That drives prices up, possibly making these services too costly for the marketplace. There are fewer customers. Businesses fail. This continues the cycle of used aircraft sales and unemployment.

Proposal Seems to Ask General Aviation Pilots to Bail Out Airlines

Shifting the cost of ATC services from airlines — which are responsible for hundreds of thousands of passenger hours a day — to general aviation is simply unfair. Many of these companies are failing financially because of their top-heavy management organization and unreasonable pay scales. Why is it that some airlines — Southwest comes to mind — are financially fit and offer good service to their customers while other airlines — think United — can’t stay afloat without government funds and pension rule changes? Could it be that some companies are simply managed better than others?

Do you think it would be fair for all people who use banks to pay a certain tax to the government for a fund that’ll bail out mismanaged banks that go under? Like the ones that gave out mortgages to anyone capable of writing their name on a form, no matter what their financial situation was?

Or how about a tax on drivers to be put in a fund to bail out automakers who don’t build the cars we want to buy at a price want to pay?

Or a tax on homeowners living in the desert for a fund that rebuilds oceanfront summer homes destroyed by hurricanes?

Is any of that fair?

Get Involved!

If you think the administration’s proposal is a bad one — or even if you want to learn more — get involved. If you’re an AOPA member, you can sign up to get e-mail notifications of developments, as well as instructions on how you can contact your government representatives to tell them what you think.

You can also go to this page to get more information about the funding debate.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Act now.

2 thoughts on “Aircraft User Fees

  1. How precient! Did you really write this in 2007?

    Did you know your “ridiculous” examples (bank and auto bail-outs) would come true 2 years later?

    Maybe someone in the Whitehouse was reading your blog! Don’t give them any more ideas. Please!

    • Don: I don’t recall saying they were “ridiculous.” I think the word I used was unfair. And I’m sure I’m not giving anyone in the White House ideas. The people in there now seem pretty good at coming up with their own. They have a tough job, fixing up the mess left by the previous administration.

What do you think?