Not surprisingly, talk of user fees dominated at NBAA’07 as aviation leaders laid out their strategy for countering airline tactics aimed at shifting more FAA costs onto general aviation. Solid progress in the fight against user fees has been made, according to industry officials speaking at a special user-fee forum at the show, but the general aviation community needs to continue its involvement in the fight against them. “We’re in terminal airspace but there’s convective weather ahead,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen, likening the effort to a long-distance flight. “We’re not on final approach by any means.” Fuel taxes fund the FAA under the current law, but airlines want the new law to rely on user fees instead.
Though the battle has been cast as a debate about the best way to fund modernization of the FAA, GA advocates claim the airlines are using this issue as a smokescreen in an effort to shift $1.5 billion to $2 billion in annual costs onto the GA community.
At the show’s Opening General Session, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters voiced disapproval of the House’s FAA reauthorization bill (H.R.2881) because it did not contain provisions for aviation user fees. Passed on September 20, the House bill relied solely on increased fuel taxes rather than user fees to fund the FAA, and Secretary Peters said the Bush administration is concerned the bill “doesn’t have a cost-based system to fund the FAA.” She noted that demand for business aircraft has never been higher, but said the limits of the current aviation system endanger the future of aviation. Peters noted that while aircraft have advanced dramatically over the years, “the technology has not changed” in the ATC system.