NBAA Chief Warns of Aviation User-fee Threat at Forum

 - September 20, 2012, 4:05 PM
The NBAA Business Aviation Regional Forum today at Seattle Boeing Field attracted some 800 attendees, 80 exhibitors and 16 static-display aircraft. (Photo: Matt Thurber)

Fog greeted early arrivals to the NBAA Business Aviation Regional Forum in Seattle this morning, but it soon burned off under the unseasonably warm sun shining on the event, which was held today at the Clay Lacy FBO at Boeing Field. More than 800 people pre-registered for the forum and 80 exhibitors filled one of Clay Lacy’s hangars. An Embraer Legacy 650 was the largest jet of the 16 static-display aircraft, which included a Piper Meridian, Quest Kodiak and Hawker 4000.

During the opening session, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen warned local business aviation operators about the threat of the federal government imposing a $100 per flight user tax on turbine operations. This could be a high risk during the “lame duck” session of Congress, he said. As they have previously, NBAA and other aviation associations are urging the government to stick with “far more efficient” fuel taxes. “Fuel taxes work,” Bolen told attendees. “User fees destroy. A $100-per-flight fee would cause us to suffocate.”

Other sessions during the forum included local tax issues presented by CenterPoint Aviation Law; loss-of-control mitigation strategies for business aircraft operators by Aviation Performance Solutions; transitioning to digital charts by Jeppesen; and Future Air Navigation System update by Universal Avionics.


It is bad enough that this economy has placed many unemployed, and not just the number of people the government is counting, but many more. Along with that, the economy has shattered and displaced lives being at the bottom of the barrel. Where are the JOBS?

Now, with this damn "User Fees" it will hurt the economy in the aviation industry as well. I am a pilot and it will make me stop flying. I can't afford it - with the high prices of aviation fuel, ever increasing regular automotive fuel and along with being out of work for 4 years. Which government nut-case dreams this up? Is there a mastermind that wants to destroy others for their own greed? What is the government thinking? Especially in this current hard times, they want more money from the little people.

This "User Fee" will increase unemployment without a doubt!!! Can't the FAA see that?

Looks like "Dean" is another hysterical, uninformed, misinformed victim of the AOPA deliberate disinformation campaign against ALL user fees. The AOPA President and staff have been trying to attract new members and pander to their wealthiest sustaining members by spreading the LIE that the $100 only-turbine-using-services-including-IFR trip fee will penalize little taildraggers out on Sunday pie patrol and ground piston twins used for business and close FBOs and flight schools coast to coast. IT WILL NOT as anyone (take a hint, Dean) who actually reads the budget or even excerpts on point would know.
Why shouldn't those who use exceptional and exceptionally expensive services pay for them instead of the general flying public and the general public itself?
And cut the crappyola tapioca, Bolen. "Suffocate" your industry? Someone with a sixty million dollar bizjet is not gonna change a gahhdmn thing about their operations over a $100 trip fee, nor someone with a Meridian,
It is high time for this nation to face fiscal reality - those who consume more and more sophisticated services should pay for them, not the struggling majority. The admittedly struggling majority of small piston owners will be subsidizing the fatcats wolfing down catered caviar in the back of their Legacy 650s if this user fee hysteria continues. Time to write/email/call your legislator and say "users SHOULD pay"... fiscal responsibility is not just for the lower classes.

Since we have an administration who wants to mirror Europe from social health care, to now user fees. If User Fees are the answer, how do you explain Europe's mess? Clearly its not working in Europe in terms of paying debt! If you feel so strong about user fees, then why don't you pay $100 every time you fly? Write a check the IRS, they'll love to have it! Until the hypocrites on the left start practicing what they preach, I'd be more accepting!

Its only thing for a single jet owner. Where its going to hurt is Part 135 operators, i.e. Net jets, Flight Options, etc. That $100 per IFR flight adds up with the number of flights they operate. This is on top of all the other BS the IRS is conducting with Aircraft Management companies. What about the airlines??? Its just not biz jets that use the airspace!

what about the helicopter tour guy doing site seeing tours around big cities and tourist attractions? $100 / flight @ 25 flights a day? it'll put them out of business, or make it too expensive for the average tourist to experience.

I am a pilot. ... I supported AOPA for many years. However, if we're closing Schools and Post Offices, cutting back on unemployment and medicare, Rich kid Fly-boys should pay more of their usage of the services they consume - why sould the General Public subsidize their hobby, or the small businesses which wouldn't survive without these subsidies? ...
I draw attention to the reduction of budget to the HHS (Health and Human Services - specifically Aid to the Poor), and the increase in the FAA budget - specifically the Grants-in-Aid for Airports (partly funded from of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) - and what pi**es me off is that... When Obama passes Stimulus these Airports benefit from, they blame Obama for increasing the deficit, but when it comes to their having to step up to pay Tax Fairness, they still blame Obama...

We bail out the Investment Bankers, they take their fat bonuses and buy turbo props, then we have to pave their runways, fix their VORs and man their Air Traffic Control Towers. We bail them out AND polish their playground!

Please, write your Congressmen, Senators, and the President (soon, please) and ask them to Support General Aviation User Fees. Also, please, if you've ever posted a flame against the NRA - consider the AOPA worse - they have a much bigger impact on the budget than the NRA does - Please post and repost any info on the General Aviation User Fees as Corporate Jet Subsidies on Steroids.

Thank you.

I'm all for people paying their fair share but this proposal is absurd. I am a private pilot and I fly a small, six passenger, turbo prop airplane. I usually fly alone, mostly for business. I just checked my logbook and I flew 160 flights of varying distances and durations over the past 12 months. Most less than one hour. At $100 per flight, this proposal will add $16,000 to my annual flying expense. Today, I spend $26,000 per year on fuel, another $20,000 on insurance, hanger, and maintenance for the plane. So my annual outlay will increase by 35% based on this proposal. Clearly the category of aircraft that I and hundreds others in the US fly has not been considered and this additional cost will destroy the value of the planes and in many cases will cause their owners to abandon aviation.

On top of that, this idea creates real safety concerns. A good example is the 15 minute flight I make frequently for maintenance on my plane. According to this proposal, if I can remain in "uncontrolled" airspace for the whole flight, I don't get charged. Hardly seems worth a hundred bucks to go 15 minutes away and I can avoid controlled airspace by flying low, avoiding the use of ATC traffic avoidance services, and avoiding the use of ATC flight plans, all of which increase the risk of flight to me and others in the area. Hardly a good idea.

If we need to make the public feel like the "rich guys" are paying their share, let's make sure we find a way through mechanisms that fairly measure that share. This flat tax is just wrong.

Quite interesting to read these comments. I am a corporate pilot in Europe. We have user fees and I can only hope that you can convince your political representatives NOT to go this way. As anyone can see here, most of the money is needed to pay for even more bureaucracy which is required to collect that money from people who may or may not find it hard to pay 100 $ trip fee in a turbine aircraft.
I bet if this goes through it will be extended to piston aircraft sooner or later because each government has use for more and more money, if they find a way to tax someone for something.
General aviation is dying here because flying got too expensive for the majority of GA pilots. If you feel better if Uncle Sam squeezes money out of the fat cats - think twice! Don't let this happen in you country!

You see, Fritz. You ever seen the acronym K.I.S.S.
means, Keep It Simple Stupid. You see Fritz, when you create
A Beuarocrocy, you have to fund it. So, now you have that Gov
Employees salary. You got to pay rent on his or her booth in
Every airport that your set up in. I could go on and on with additional
cost to run this thing. So....all this money that's supposed to pay for Next
Gen is paying instead for this rental space and and Gov employee salary.
So now Uncle Sam says, we need more Revenue. Well, we're already here
Lets start taxing the GA pilots now. Ya see Fritz Katz, all they needed to do
Was add a fuel tax to everyone. And 100%, I say 100 % of that revenue would
Have went to Nex Gen. Hey Fritz, KISS

Once the door is opened with "user fees", it will not stop with turbine aircraft. Anyone who thinks otherwise is only fooling themselves. AOPA and the rest of the GA groups need to take lessons on lobbying from the NRA. Maybe then the "user fee" idea will finally be dead. Hopefully voting President Obama out of office will go a long way to killing "user fees" once and for all.

The current trend of the press and news media is to [condemn / censure / denounce / criticize] General Aviation and airports. They portray only one side of the story and fail to investigate a major role General Aviation and our airports have played in the industrial development of our country.

Working in the aviation industry for over 40 years, of which 25 were with the state of Michigan's Bureau of Aeronautics, I had many occasions to deal with public and privately owned airports and corporate flight operations.

One of the more interesting stories (of many), was that of Genova Products of Davison, Michigan. They were the developers of PVC pipe. In a telephone conversation many years ago with the CEO and founder (whose name escapes me), he related to me the difficulty in establishing their product as a standard in the plumbing and housing industry. It was necessary to achieve acceptance by the multitude of governmental agencies across the county, especially those establishing building codes.

To achieve this necessary objective, they purchased a MU-2 and even built their own airport (Davison, Genova Airport). They then undertook the scheduling, pick-up and transporting the many township and state officials across the country (by air out of their local airports), to the Genova manufacturing and testing facility and established an acceptance and code by which PVC pipe has become a standard nation-wide.

Would anybody care to speculate the financial impact this company has had on the U.S. by virtue of the company airplane and the many local GA airports and FBO’s? It should be blatantly clear what the entrepreneurial spirit and the company airplane contributed to our country and its economy.

We should challenge the government, the press and many naysayers and detractors of general aviation, to contact Genova Products and cover the role and impact this one company alone had on our society. And, they are just one of many such situations. Those in congress and the administration need to understand the universal role aviation plays and therefore a reasonable portion of the tax burden needs to be distributed among the population as a whole. Lastly, we don't need another bureaucracy to administer a $100 per flight fee when an in-place gas tax has proven to be a very effective means of tax collection!

I know FBO's that charge what they call "facility fees" right now that rival what the the government wants to do. Believe me greed kills. Once thriving airport traffic drops dramaticly and does not rebound. Pilots will route around the airports with the "buy fuel or pay us" policies. Government fees on top on this will kill GA.

Has anyone stopped to ask, “Why does this User-Fees-for-Turbine-Flights idea keep coming up?” You can't just put it down to the scheming of one political party or the other, however much some respondents want to believe it. Why else would the idea rise from the dead in three successive administrations?

Since the Reagan Administration, and thanks to it, middle class Americans now shoulder a much larger share of the tax burden that used to be borne by the affluent and by large corporations. They've also watched their salaries and wages stagnate, while inflation and the cost of living have crept upward. They've lost buying power, discretionary income, and their labor has been devalued.

Republican legislators cannot endorse any tax or fee that would impact the donors who paid for their campaigns, and who promise them a soft landing in some cushy lobbying firm or think tank after their years of “public service” end. These donors have grown fat and arrogant under supply-side tax policy that amounts to an entitlement program for the already affluent. Wealthy Americans insist the American Dream is still available to those who will work to achieve it, citing their own success as proof. But what these affluent freeloaders will not admit is that, having achieved success under the protection of rule by law, using an infrastructure they do far too little to maintain, they wrongly insist, either out of ignorance or by indulging in monumental self-absorption and self-deceit, that they did it themselves. (Pause while the audience roars with laughter.)

Nor will these quirky thugs, these affluent freeloaders, admit that they now want to change the rules, to pull the ladder up behind them, to keep the club small, incestuous in thought and deed.

Enter the legislative branch of government, overpopulated with the underprincipled, many of whom want to ride any wave of public sentiment and milk votes out of it, in pursuit of... well, they are a decidedly averse-to-introspection-lot, so they don't know what the hell they want. Probably trying to make up for neglect and abuse suffered at the hands of damaged parents. Why the nation has to suffer these fools is a question for the gods.

Credit the affluent freeloaders for possession of acute predatory instincts. They see in the attention-starved politician an easy mark, a resource to be exploited in the pursuit of... well, they are a decidedly averse-to-introspection lot, so they don't know what the hell they want. Fair to say the affluent freeloaders have an addiction to money, power, influence, though what these are surrogates for is...yes, a question for the gods. Why the nation has to suffer these know the rest.

This nation once had the foresight to tax affluent freeloaders at a level that would keep their political influence in check, keep business booming, create and expand an infrastructure for the common good (a socialist approach, surely) and, by growing what was at the time the largest middle class any nation in the world had seen, arguably ever in recorded history, created the finest example of a democratic republic with a regulated free market economy. I speak of the 1950s.

True, women and minorities lived under the thumb of different laws and social corruptions than did white males. But taxes on the wealthy and big business were high by today's standards, and yet the economy was booming. If big business had dared to make the ridiculous claim that the tax rates applied to them would stifle job creation, the public would have laughed at such blatant lies and called them greedy, maladjusted whiners. The affluent and the leaders in big business didn't have a stranglehold on power and influence back then. Power resided with the middle class, where it always belongs.

Back then, a republican president chose not to dismantle New-Deal era reforms and innovations, not because he embraced them wholeheartedly, but because, witnessing the economic health of the nation, due in part to said innovations and discoveries, he put the nation first, not his party or any provincial, creaky, patriarchal, elitist ideology.

There is no correlation between tax cuts, especially those targeted at big business and the already affluent, and economic recovery or economic growth. Call it what it is: an entitlement program for the undeserving, one that offers no benefit to the nation or its citizens. It is welfare for the affluent freeloaders, who have grown too lazy to actually do the hard work required to run a business honestly. Instead they bribe their way to laws that favor the hording of wealth, that allow them to sequester it in off-shore tax havens, that allow them to invent byzantine financial “innovations” to hide their income, hide the value of their assets, and most importantly, hide their monumental business failures.

So why are User Fees again on the radar? Because all but a few of our legislators lack the courage to confront the affluent freeloaders and reform (read: simplify) the tax code to recapture the tax revenue freeloaders have sequestered for decades, revenue that belongs to the great nation that allowed these freeloaders to acquire affluence. Through the previous three administrations, legislators have looked for any means to capture that lost revenue, which represents part of the power they, and the government, can wield. Which recapture method will offend the smallest number of people? Enter User Fees.

The airlines, exempt from the fee, have no objection. Scratch one lobbying bloc. Piston engine aircraft are also exempt: scratch the private pilot bloc, a well-educated group very capable of activism on matters affecting their stick-time. But one of the private pilot organizations, AOPA (whose members fly mostly piston engined aircraft and would mostly not be affected by the proposed fee) has not been transparent in educating their members on the issue. This is a blight on their reputation. As a result of AOPA's obfuscations and lies of omission, too many private pilots believe that User Fees as proposed will affect their piston-engined aircraft flights, or have been scared by the Chicken-Little argument that it is only a matter of time before User Fees will be expanded to cover all private aviation flights by any category of aircraft.

Private pilots have to be prodded into recognizing that the affluent freeloaders aren't finished preying on the middle class, that the freeloaders' addiction to money and power cannot be curtailed by ignoring them, or by voting them whatever laws they want (and thereby voting against our own, and the nation's, best interests). Private pilots have to do much more than merely (my thanks to Mr. Moore for this observation) walk past the latest Cessna, Cirrus or Pilatus, gawk, whistle, and say, “Wow! Wish I could afford that...”

So, the legislators got your attention with talk of User Fees? It's clear we can't let the affluent freeloaders who own them decide what's best for our nation. Decades of entitlement has made the affluent so self-absorbed they can't see beyond their net worths. Their reign as the center of power has to end now. Either we restore equitable taxation and make the affluent freeloaders contribute justly to the nation's well-being, or we tax them with User Fees, and not just for turbine flights. If they don't like it, they can go live in those countries they outsourced jobs to. Hell yes I'm for User Fees! User Fees for affluent freeloaders. The IRS can supply the list.

The real task before us? Restore the government's power to tax corporations and the affluent equitably. Restore to the government sufficient power and clout, and only that, to participate with citizens and business in a balanced triumvirate. We had such a balance once, we can have it again. Then watch all talk of User Fees vanish and become a curious appendix of our economic history.

Typical ... Gov looking to fix a problem that doesn't exist. If FAA funding is falling short, look for efficiencies and raise fuel Taxes! The tax system is already in place, works, and gets the money where it belongs ... No new bureaucracy and not one new penny will be required for oversight .... Period!

Less than honest and certainly less than honorable politicians think that we are too stupid to recognize that "fee" equals "tax" and they are scared to death of the "t" word. Do the right thing and stop pandering to idiots while trying to protect your own skin .... You were hired to protect ours!

The rest of you .... Stop over thinking this! You're part of the problem!

In case you're wondering .... Yes I am a pilot and I am far closer to the administrations poverty level than their definition of rich. I will pay my fuel taxes if increased and keep flying .... User "fees" will kill GA ... Look across the pond or down under! Are they really this stupid or is it intentional?

Some of the commenters here really need to get a breath of fresh air and rethink their position on what truly will kill the high end GA industry and a $100 ATC charge per IFR flight for turbine powered aircraft operating in the high altitude structure of our NAS is not that! - I'll bet that figure is close to what these guys tip the line boy at the FBO each time they refuel and load the catering aboard.

What will kill the GA industry is to espouse the theory that somehow because we have always done things one way, that's the way it has to remain. There is no such thing as a free lunch and the sooner the AOPA and NBAA crowd figure that out the better they will be able to represent their constituenticies on matters such as this with sensible solutions to insure the long-term growth of the GA industry.

What's interesting to me about this debate is that despite the facts, there seems to be a sense of entitlement by these high-end GA types who operate these multi-million aircraft of getting a free ride on the taxpayer's $ - sound familiar? - think about it!

Perhaps airspace users need to or should pay more to use the ATC infrastructure, but to me the key point is that whatever mechanism is put in place to fund it additional growth of the bureaucracy cannot be one of the results. Reduction of the cost of the infrastructure has to be as important as figuring out how to fund it. A user fee will require additional bureaucracy which will dilute (or negate) any benefit of the additional revenue from fees, which leaves us right where we started.

Whether biz jet owner/operators are "fat cats" leaching off a system supported by the "average Joe middle class GA owner/operator" or are actually small to mid-sized business owners working very hard to build or maintain a business that is not supported well by our commercial airline industry is an interesting (and important) discussion but will always be overly prone to opinion, political tendencies and a scarcity of factual demographics. But whichever side of that argument you find yourself on, fees are a bad idea. If we have to pay, at least use existing bureaucracy. So as much as I hate the idea of increased fuel taxes at least they won't add a new expensive FAA department to implement.

Instead of arguing which of our pockets the government should pick (fees or fuel taxes) we should be mobilizing to find ways to control the cost of the infrastructure and the bureaucracy behind it. That's not a political position, it's a pragmatic one.

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