Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W. Va., said he?s determined to ensure general aviation pays more to support the modernization of the air traffic control system. During hearings on the reauthorization of the FAA by the Senate Finance Committee, Rockefeller threatened to restrict GA access to congested airspace if user fees are not imposed on this segment as part of the reauthorization package. He said airline passengers should not be forced to “continue to subsidize corporate jets.” It should be noted that this is the same congressman who?s worked hard to attract business jet manufacturer Sino Swearingen and the now-defunct Tiger Aircraft to his home turf of Martinsburg, W. Va. In fact, as he lobbies for fees that corporate aviation groups say will hurt their industry, he?s also actively involved in a rescue of Sino Swearingen, whose major investor — the Taiwanese government — is now trying to get out of the deal. Rockefeller told local media last week there?s someone waiting in the wings to buy the Taiwanese shares.
Assisting Rockefeller in the battle for user fees is Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., who is apparently thought of well enough by the aviation community in Pascagoula, Miss., since they named the local airport after him. Trent Lott International Airport specializes in handling corporate airplane traffic, according to its Web site, and stresses that it is not a “commercial” airport. But Lott is clearly on the side of the airlines in the funding debate. “For all of you laying over in the weeds saying ‘I’m gonna get my part no matter what and by the way the airlines are going to pay for it.’ Forget it. We?re going to have a fair bill or no bill and I’m prepared to go the mat,” Lott said. Lott?s namesake is a prime contender for the plant that would build the KC-30, an Airbus derivative that is competing with Boeing?s modified 767 to become the Air Force?s next primary in-flight refueling tanker.