AOPA have been sorting through the FAA’s funding proposal to figure out exactly what all the proposed changes would cost. They’ve found that if the FAA gets its way, fliers of piston-engine aircraft would see their fees increase $100 million per year — more than triple what they pay today. Fees for turbine-powered GA aircraft would also more than triple, adding up to an extra $868 million per year. The big winners would be the “legacy” airlines, whose taxes would be cut by more than one-fourth, saving them about $1.7 billion a year. The low-cost airlines would see a 15-percent cut, saving about $286 million per year. “It’s no wonder the airlines love this proposal so much,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “Not only would they pay less, they’d have more control over who uses the air traffic control system, and they’d have the majority vote in setting the fees they charge themselves and others.” But isn’t there an upside — when you are forced to fly commercial, those savings will show in your ticket price, right? Not according to Boyer. “Do you really think the airlines are going to pass that cost savings on to the passenger?” he asks. Under the existing structure, airlines simply collect the ticket tax from passengers, and send it along to the U.S. Treasury. But under the new proposal, the airline would pay a user fee directly to the government, and there is no incentive or requirement to pass their savings along to passengers.
The Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association (RACCA) and Helicopter Association International (HAI) recently joined ranks with other aviation groups to take a stand against the FAA’s proposed change to a system funded by user fees. In a statement to members of Congress, RACCA said the proposal would triple the fuel taxes paid by its members. The group also said the cost of collecting new fees for GA operations and services would be prohibitive. “If implemented, the proposal puts the FAA in the position of being a tax collector, diluting its mandated focus on aviation safety issues,” according to RACCA. Meanwhile, last week at Heli-Expo HAI President Matthew Zuccaro said his organization is “strenuously opposed” to the FAA’s user-fee proposal, charging that the fourfold fuel tax increase and other additional untold fees are “not acceptable.” He was most puzzled by “the FAA’s math, where general aviation will pay more but the overall revenue is less.” Zuccaro also pointed out that helicopters don’t use services at the level of other aircraft; for example, he said helicopters can use heliports, which have far lower infrastructure and operating costs than airports. Thus, he maintains that helicopter operators would pay a disproportionally larger share under the FAA’s proposed user-fee system.