WATSONVILLE, Calif. – As Congress searches for new sources of revenue, the General Aviation industry could take a hard hit if a controversial new fee is imposed for flights. That charge would impact many pilots on the Central Coast.
eneral aviation flights include everything from business-related planes to personal travel. The only exceptions is for commercial airliners and the U.S. Military.
Opponents to the fee proposal say the industries that would feel the impact would be far reaching. They include agriculture, emergency medical evacuation, law enforcement, forest-fire fighting, package delivery and the Civil Air Patrol.
The exact fee amount has not been presented by Congress, but early speculation is rumoring a gain of $10 billion to the Federal Government from the proposal. Right now, general aviation pilots pay a fuel tax which can be used for airport projects.
If the legislation is enacted, the outlook could be grim for pilots and patients using Angel Flight West. AFW is a volunteer service, helping people with medical needs get from one city to the next for medical care. The service comes at no cost to the patient.
“If it passes, it will change every thing in the general aviation industry… from top to bottom, front to back,” says Joe Shelton, a pilot with AFW. “Not only is it economically more difficult… it also has an effect on safety,” adds Shelton, who’s been flying for 30 years.
Shelton says the idea of a new fee for GA pilots has been in the works for years (Editor’s Note: Since the Clinton years), but has been energized when President Barack Obama came into office. “He’s trying to cut costs and trying to save the Government money. But at the same time, he’s hurting an industry that’s important to the population of this country,” says Shelton, who tends to be an overall support of President Obama.
“It’s simply about the economy.”
Opponents say “tens of millions of Americans” depend on General Aviation as an economic lifeline. But with the proposal for a so-called “scheme of new taxes and new restrictions” being considered in Washington, D.C., that lifeline is in jeopardy. That’s according to a group called General Aviation Serves America.
In April, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the world’s largest pilots organization launched the General Aviation Serves America group. The goal of the campaign is to educate policy makers and the public about the vital role that General Aviation plays in the nation’s economy.
GA pumps more than $150 Billion into the U.S. economy.
Some members of Congress have formed a caucus to educate their peers on the issue. In California, they include Mary Bono Mack (R), Darrell Issa (R) and Loretta Sanchez (D).