The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is fighting a plan by the FAA to impose $479,000 in air traffic control fees on its annual AirVenture airshow in Oshkosh, Wis., the largest civil airshow in the U.S., attracting more than 12,000 aircraft. “They are holding us hostage,” EAA chairman Jack Pelton told AIN this morning.
On May 14 Pelton was informed of the demand for contract and immediate payment by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and COO David Grizzle, allegedly to cover the cost of controller expenses and overtime. The FAA’s move came just days after Congress voted to override cuts the FAA made to the national ATC system in the wake of federal budget sequestration. “This is political,” Pelton said.
The EAA is mobilizing its members and Congress to block the FAA fees. A bipartisan letter of opposition has, as of this morning, attracted the signatures of 27 U.S. senators. In the House, opposition is being led by U.S. Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), a senior member of the House transportation and infrastructure committee, whose district includes Oshkosh. Petri said the federal aviation fuel taxes paid by participating aircraft more than cover any FAA costs associated with the event. “Given the amount of fuel taxes this generates, maybe the FAA should be cutting the EAA a check, rather than the other way around,” Petri told AIN this morning. Petri said Congress would take a hard look at the FAA’s legal authority to impose the fees and hinted that it could become a stumbling block to the Senate’s final confirmation of transportation secretary designee Anthony Foxx.
However, Pelton concedes that if these opposition efforts fail, the EAA likely will pay up. He said the EAA has no plans to recapture the costs by imposing any sort of fee on participating aircraft. “That would not be fair to our members,” he said.
AirVenture begins July 29.