American Eagle president and RAA chairman Peter Bowler posited a proposal to ease the airlines’ burden for funding FAA and ATC services: get business aviation to pay its fair share. “Airlines fund 90 percent of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund but account for only 60 percent of the activity,” Bowler said during an RAA press gathering. “Business jets in particular are getting a free ride.”
Exempt from user fees, business aviation interests argue they do pay their fair share–in the form of a 21.9-cent-per-gallon fuel tax. Bowler scoffed at that line of reasoning. “The fuel tax covers a small fraction of business aviation’s use of the system,” he said.
Bowler singled out FAA funding as the airline industry’s top challenge for the coming year. During the convention’s closed-door Presidents’ Council meeting, regional airline executives debated how best to address the funding shortfall. The RAA chairman identified a dire need for capital investment to fund new technologies and expand capacity. He also called for improved productivity and an end to re-dundant responsibilities among FAA employees.
Bowler won’t get an argument about FAA productivity from Air Transport Association vice president and chief economist John Heimlich, who, while speaking at the convention’s general session, blamed the FAA more than a lack of resources for the predicament. “We don’t have a revenue problem; the FAA has an expense problem,” he said. “A lot of [ATC] centers can be shut down. This is classic pork.”