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Small airports fear impact of ATC fee
September 30, 2011
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  • By: Megan Davis September 29, 2011
    Local and national members of the aviation industry say they fear a measure included in President Obama’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction could deliver a crippling blow to the enterprise.
    “It will be devastating for our business,” said John Trissel, manager of Eagle’s Nest Airport in Fishersville. “If we have any more loss of business É we’re very concerned about being able to keep the airport open.”
    To help fund the plan, a $100 per flight air traffic control fee for nearly all flights in government-controlled air space is proposed.
    While expressing less alarm, Greg Campbell, manager of Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave, said he also opposes user fees.
    “We like the current system as it is,” he said.
    Campbell said he believes “smaller folks would be impacted most” by such a fee.
    “I don’t see it as a positive for the general aviation crowd,” he said.
    The plan touts the tax as a way to “more equitably share payments for air traffic services.”
    “General aviation users currently pay a fuel tax but this revenue does not cover their fair-share-use of air traffic services,” the plan reads.
    The fee would generate an estimated $11 billion during a period of 10 years, which would cover three-fourths of airport investments and air traffic control system costs, according to the plan.
    Currently two-thirds of air traffic control costs are funded by the aviation excise tax, with most of the revenue collected from airlines.
    In addition to cutting taxes, the plan “also asks the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share of taxes,” Obama said last week during a visit to Cincinnati, Ohio.
    After the administration released the plan, the Alliance for Aviation Across America sought to refute Obama’s “mischaracterization” of general aviation.
    “The President has repeatedly denigrated general aviation, stating that those who use or own their own aircraft are wealthy and deserving of additional tax burdens,” a news release from the organization reads. “This comes at a time when the general aviation industry, which is responsible for over 1.2 million jobs and$150 billion in economic impact, has already had to lay off tens of thousands of workers and businesses are already trying to stay afloat.”
    Days later representatives of 77 localities in 44 states, including Franklin Mayor James Councill III andPetersburg City Manager William Johnson III, issued a joint letter expressing disapproval of the fee.
    “The vast majority of businesses and organizations that own and utilize general aviation are not wealthy CEOs,” the letter reads. “Rather, 85 percent are small to mid-sized businesses and organizations that rely on these aircraft to reach far-off plants and customers, serve rural markets without access to commercial aviation or deliver medical care and other services.”

    Date: 2011-09-29