In a speech earlier this week to the Aero Club of Washington, DC, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey again said the agency is nearly broke… and she held out her hat on a possible solution. “A change in our funding system is not only necessary, it is warranted,” Blakey said. “Our ability to pay the operations bills is literally tied to the price of a ticket. Low-cost carriers driving the market, more and smaller aircraft up there, you do the math. The equation doesn’t work.”
While Blakey raises a valid point — the FAA budget is determined in large part to fees the agency collects from taxes on airline tickets — others, including the Office of Management and Budget, say they have done the math, and the numbers simply don’t compute.
“Rather than the FAA’s predictions of an aviation trust fund collapse, the OMB predicts continued trust fund growth,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
Under the agency’s current funding plan, the FAA’s authority to collect ticket and fuel taxes will expire in 2007 — and FAA and Department of Transportation officials want to use that opportunity to change the system.
“What we need is a constant, stable revenue stream, one that’s tied to the actual cost of the services we provide,” Blakey told the Aero Club. “What a difference that could make for the FAA, what a difference that could make for the future of aviation.”
Does Blakey mean that “user fees” — an exact term Blakey is careful not to use around pilots — are what the FAA is looking at future funding? AOPA says it is — and, no surprise, that it’s not a good idea.
“It’s difficult to imagine any other system where the ‘revenue stream’ is tied to the actual cost of the services provided,” said Boyer. “If you charge a fee for the service your revenue can be tied to providing that service.”
AOPA has previously stated if pilots are charged for utilizing such services as FSS, pilots will opt not to use such services to save money — a system that would inevitably cause far more harm than good.
Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta did say at AOPA Expo earlier this month that, from his perspective, user fees would not be the solution for general aviation. But Mineta also acknowledged that the battle against GA user fees is far from won.
Editor’s Note: As CalPilots has said before, implementing some complex system to try to recover fees is just plain foolish. It is clear that the government is not good at it (i.e., it will cost more then they will recover). General Aviation pays a huge amount of taxes each year. We ‘pay as we go’ which is still the best and most equitable method of funding.