GA defeat in Canada
The slide down the slippery
slope of user fees. Nav Canada, the privatized air traffic control agency to
the north, reports that the Canadian Transport Agency has approved a
daily user fee charge for GA aircraft at seven major airports.
Why's that important to U.S.
general aviation pilots?
demonstrates—again—that once user fees are applied to one segment of
aviation, it's only a matter of time before user fees hit everybody,"
said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
And it's important because many of the aviation user fee proposals being advanced in the United States would—in the beginning—treat "personal and recreational" aviation differently—just like they did in Canada—in the beginning.
The camel's nose
"User fees for any segment
of aviation are the camel's nose under the tent flap," Boyer said.
In Nav Canada's beginnings,
light general aviation paid an annual, fixed fee for access to the nation's
airspace and air traffic control system. Other users paid per flight fees
based upon distance traveled, aircraft weight, and other factors. That
different treatment of different classes of users wasn't supposed to change.
But earlier this year, the
private company announced "revenue neutral" changes to its fee
schedule, which increased the charges to smaller aircraft, and specifically
added new user fees of $10 per day ($1,200 maximum per year per airport) for
aircraft weighing three metric tonnes (6,614 pounds) or less landing at
The Canadian Aircraft Owners and
Pilots Association (COPA) unsuccessfully appealed the charge to the Canadian
Transportation Agency (CTA). COPA President Kevin Psutka said at the time,
"The age of pay-as-you-go is upon us, indeed a very slippery slope that
has played out elsewhere in the world. COPA considers this a devastating
precedent that will most likely be expanded over time to capture more
airports and/or services."
"There can be no compromise
on this issue in the United States," said Boyer. "We won't be
fooled by U.S. user fee proponents who think they can 'buy off' light GA by
exempting us from per flight user fees.
"User fees for some mean
user fees for all," Boyer said. "User fees for anyone would harm
all of general aviation."
Status of U.S. user fee proposals
The FAA's funding proposal—which
reportedly includes mechanisms for "tying the revenue stream to the cost
of doing business"—is still under review in the White House Office of
Management and Budget.
FAA Administrator Marion Blakey
recently told aviation leaders, including AOPA President Phil Boyer, that the
FAA's proposal would not be presented to Congress this year.
But that doesn't mean it is
The current FAA funding system
of taxes on aviation fuel, airline tickets, and air cargo (plus a
contribution from the general fund) will expire next year. That means the
real political fight will come in the next session of Congress as everyone
with a dog in the FAA funding fight will be marshaling forces on Capitol
Congress could decide to
continue the current funding system. That would seem to make sense. The
system is fair, it's efficient, and for more than 30 years, it has provided
the money the FAA truly needs. And even the White House predicts that it will
continue to raise enough money for the agency.
But that's not what the FAA or
the airlines want. Both want some kind of system where individual aircraft
are billed for "their fair share" of the costs of operating the air
traffic control system. The FAA will have the White House behind whatever
proposal it presents. The airlines will have millions of dollars of political
contributions to hand out.
AOPA will have the power of
numbers—pilots and voters who use and depend upon the system.
"This is a marathon," said Boyer.
"We're only in the first mile of the race against user fees."