Bill Would Raise Flying Costs
July 29, 2009
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  • By Alex Paul

    Jesse Skoubo/Democrat-Herald


    Tom Kopczynski and Happy Miles are concerned about the added costs for hobby pilots and small businesses under a proposed Senate bill.

    A proposed doubling of airplane fuel taxes combined with a $25-per-flight fee would be like a “sharp stick in the eye” for general aviation, two mid-valley pilots believe.

    Tom Kopczynski, owner of Reliant Aviation at the Albany Municipal Airport, and Happy Miles, who has been a licensed pilot for 54 years, say a bill pending in the U.S. Senate, Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill S. 1300, would punish hobby pilots and small businesses that cater to them.

    “This will strangle general aviation,” Kopczynski said. “We are the little guys. We’ve already taken a lot of hits since 9/11.”

    The bill would eliminate a 4.3-cent-per-gallon jet fuel tax, a savings of about $500 million per year for major carriers. It would more than double the tax on fuel purchased by general aviation pilots – from the current 21.8 cents to about 49 cents per gallon. The $25-per-flight fee would be imposed for every general aviation flight, which includes basically everything other than commercial and military.

    Reliant Aviation provides services such as flight instruction, mechanical work, annual inspections, biennial reviews for pilots and charter flights.

    There are about 60 hangars at the airport, Kopczynski said, and some hangars hold more than one plane.

    “Think about how many times a student pilot takes off and lands before getting his license,” Kopczynski said, concerning the fee. “You probably do 100 or more landings before you learn to fly.”

    Miles wonders who will be responsible for monitoring the program and counting the number of times someone takes off or lands. “It’s ridiculous and it isn’t funny,” Miles said.

    Kopcynski said small business owners – a crop duster, for instance – would have to pass the flat fees on to his farming customers.

    “Or, maybe the farmer just decides to not spray for bugs,” Kopczynksi said.

    Kopcynski said most general aviation pilots aren’t rich and their hobby is expensive enough as it is.

    Funds generated by the plan would be used to modernize the nation’s airports. Oregon Sens. Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden sit on the Senate Finance Committee. A consortium of interested groups called the Alliance for Aviation opposes the proposed law changes.

    Date: 2007-08-29