At the AOPA Convention in Palm Springs, Calif., last month, the specter of user fees cast its long shadow over operators and potential operators of the new small jets. At the opening general session a lineup of aviation heavyweights voiced their views on user fees. Tom Poberezny, president of EAA, summed it up best when he said, “They [the airlines] want to control more and pay less.”
NBAA president Ed Bolen recalled that in 1977 the major carriers tried to get user fees that they thought would eliminate the discount airlines. That strategy didn’t work. Now, they’ve joined forces with those airlines to fight general aviation.
Pete Bunce, president of GAMA, pointed out that there are 1.3 million jobs in general aviation. “We have to get that across to Congress,” he said.
Panel member Sam Graves, a congressman from Missouri, a pilot and a member of the House Transportation Committee, pointed out that members of Congress are not knowledgeable about general aviation or user fees and underscored the importance of pilots’ expressing their opinions to their representatives.
FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, a speaker at one of the general sessions, was acutely aware that she was addressing an audience that was opposed to user fees. “We are not going to stand by while airports that have taken federal funding are threatened,” she said. “Condos will just have to go elsewhere.
“The new system does not have to entail broad user fees for general aviation,” she continued.
However, she had a more difficult time answering questions from the audience. When an attorney asked her to define what she meant by “broad user fees,” she passed the buck to the Bush Administration. “We don’t know what the new budget is going to contain. We have to wait and see what the budget comes up with.”