Bill Threatens Private Fliers
July 30, 2009
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  • By Gale Rose


    A bill under consideration in Congress has general aviation worried about their future. General aviation includes Pratt Industrial Airport and the companies that fly or maintain aircraft at the airport.

    The new Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill includes creating a new $25 user fee for all turbine prop aircraft for every operation that uses air traffic control and creates a 360 percent increase in fuel taxes for general aviation. The combination would have a serious impact on all general aviation.

    The fuel tax increase would impact the aircraft and businesses at the Pratt Airport including Farmers Spraying Service and the 25 aircraft based at the airport including two planes operated by Gateway Ethanol and one by Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, said Reid Bell, executive director for Pratt Airport Authority.

    Some of the pilots and businesses said they could not afford to fly if the tax increase and user fee are implemented. The market for plane sales would drop and impact owners, airports and manufacturers, Bell said.

    “If general aviation went away it would devastate Kansas,” Bell said. “It would ruin us.”

    Kansas leads the nation in revenue generated by general aviation with $7 billion annually per capita or $2,500 per resident, Bell said.

    The same bill eliminates a $0.043 per gallon fuel tax for big airlines. This amounts to a big tax break for commercial airlines at the expense of general aviation.

    Kansas Congressmen are not supporting the bill.

    “I will work to fight against this new scheme and to ensure that general aviation gets a fair shake from the FAA,” said Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts.

    The bill is headed to the Senate Finance Committee. Roberts is a member of the committee and he does have jurisdiction, said Sarah Little, Roberts’s communications director.

    Rep. Todd Tiahrt and Sen. Sam Brownback also oppose user fees, Little said.

    A rationalization for the fee and tax increase is that the amount of general aviation traffic is creating problems at airports but the numbers don’t support that conclusion.

    “Four percent of total traffic at major airports is general aviation,” said Selena Shailad, executive director, Alliance for Aviation Across America that opposes any user fees.

    The AAAA was recently established to fight the bill and quickly grew to over 3,000 members.

    Commercial aviation got a $5 trillion bail out after 9-11 but general aviation got nothing, said Rep. Todd Tiahrt during his testimony to the House subcommittee on aviation.

    General aviation is just now getting back to the level it was before 9-11 and this bill would have a serious impact on general aviation.

    “But our industry is just now recovering from this post 9-11 recession and user fees will cripple the industry and discourage the use of general aviation,” Tiahrt said during his testimony. “The number one concern in the general aviation community is that user fees will stall the recovery of this important America industry.”

    Tiahrt testified that the proposed user based fee would bring in hundreds of millions less than the existing system. It would generate $641 million less in fiscal year 2008 and $900 million less from fiscal year 2009 to 2010.

    Other Kansas congressmen agree that the proposed user fee is not the way to go.

    “I simply don’t understand how the administration intends to modernize our air traffic control system by instituting a financing mechanism that shifts a greater financial burden to the marginal user for the system – general aviation – and results in fewer receipts into the trust fund,” said Sen. Sam Brownback while questioning Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters on why the tax burden to pay for updating the air traffic control system is shifting from commercial aviation to general aviation.

    Date: 2007-06-18