D.C. Think Tank Targets Private Aviation

 - May 4, 2023, 12:11 PM
(Illustration: AIN)

An influential Washington, D.C. think tank that routinely targets corporations, the police, and private wealth has turned its focus to business aviation. The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) is promoting its new study, “High Flyers 2023,” as an examination of “how ultra-rich private jet travel costs the rest of us and burns up our planet.” The report charges private aviation with creating a disproportionate environmental footprint and benefitting from unfair tax policy.

The report includes a variety of measures recommended by the organization, including a 10 percent sales tax on all preowned private aircraft sales and a 5 percent tax on new aircraft transactions; doubling the federal fuel tax on business aircraft; imposing a surcharge on “short hop” flights of less than 210 miles, with higher rates applying for flights less than 100 miles; blocking increases to passenger facility charges for airline passengers and instead raising additional tax revenues from private jet owners; creating a Sustainable Transportation Equity Trust Fund to fund rail infrastructure and bike lanes; increasing TSA security oversight of private jets; and enacting legislation requiring the FAA to provide full transparency on the ownership of U.S.-registered private aircraft.

This study follows the enactment of a “luxury tax” on private aircraft in Canada last year and growing opposition to business aviation in Europe on environmental grounds, including several protests there late last year that coincided with the COP27 climate change conference in Egypt. 

NBAA pushed back hard against the IPS study. In a statement issued to AIN, NBAA called it a “misleading and partisan caricature of business aviation” and noted that business aviation is “an essential American industry, supporting more than a million jobs, generating nearly $250 billion in economic activity, connecting towns and communities across the country, and providing flights for worthy humanitarian causes.

"Among the study's mischaracterizations and selective use of data, its most glaring factual omission is that for decades, business aviation has been a testbed for technologies that reduce the sector’s carbon footprint, and pave the way for realizing the established goal of achieving net-zero emissions from business aircraft by 2050," NBAA said. "How can it be that the 30-plus-page study misses entirely the game-changing breakthroughs pioneered by business aviation that have been key to reaching this net-zero goal? NBAA urges an honest discussion of business aviation’s societal benefits and environmental leadership."