NBAA rallies troops for fight against user fees

 - October 31, 2006, 9:36 AM

The nation’s major airlines have declared war on business aviation and, as the weapon to win that war, they intend to push for ATC user fees to be levied upon business aviation operators. This was the message NBAA president Ed Bolen delivered April 8 at the Arizona Business Aircraft Association (AZBAA) forum in Scottsdale. Bolen observed, “The airlines are now recognizing that business aviation is becoming a competitor of theirs, and they seem to be thinking, ‘Maybe we can get them taxed to pay part of our share’ of the cost of operating the system.”

He noted, “The FAA seems to be more open today to the idea. It wants to be paid directly for each operation handled, and that means user fees.” The NBAA’s chief executive noted that FAA brass are softening their previous “No user fees. Not now, not ever” stance when they point out that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not impose aviation user fees. “That indicates to me that they want to impose them.”

Bolen restated his belief that the aviation fuel tax is the most efficient and the fairest method of collecting revenue since it is “a progressive tax that is a direct measure of airspace use.”

He urged AZBAA and other regional NBAA affiliates to unite with the rest of general aviation’s diverse communities against the campaign for user fees. Bolen warned that proponents likely will use a divide-and-conquer strategy to splinter their opposition by assuring other general aviation groups that the user fees won’t affect them.

Bolen said the airlines are targeting business aviation with the argument that it costs the FAA the same amount to handle a Boeing 747 or a business jet. The NBAA counter-strategy, he stated, is to educate legislators that the majority of business flying is done in light twins and turboprops far from the airline hubs, not “the fat cats flying around in GVs, as the airlines would have the public believe.”

He told the audience at the AZBAA forum that business aircraft groups from NBAA to the local level “must hammer home the point that we are only marginal users of the system, which was created by the airlines for the airlines. If all of general aviation were grounded tomorrow, the cost of operating the National Airspace System would not decrease appreciably.”