Contact Congress to Oppose User Fees for General Aviation

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Among the discussions currently taking place in Washington, D.C., about reducing the deficit and finding new revenue streams is talk about imposing new user fees on general aviation. There has been similar talk in the past, but Congress squashed the idea. There’s not yet any formal proposal, but there are enough rumors from official sources that many of the general aviation associations representing pilots and businesses that operate aircraft have asked their members to contact their Senators and Member of Congress to oppose the idea. General aviation users already contribute to the aviation trust fund by paying a federal tax on every gallon of fuel purchased, and general aviation users want to stay with that method.

The basic idea of a user fee is to charge aircraft operators a set fee per flight. The charge could be anywhere from $25 to $100, and it could be assessed per takeoff or per radio contact with air traffic control (ATC). Skydiving operators—with multiple takeoffs each day and a requirement to contact ATC on each flight—would pay more than most operators; the cost of jump tickets would go up. A new fee could be aimed at jets only, or it could be aimed at all turbine aircraft, or all aircraft in commercial operation, or simply all aircraft. Regardless, if enacted, it is a sure bet that the fee would eventually increase and also be expanded to other users in the future. Adding insult to injury is that the FAA would have to create a sub-agency to track billing and enforce payment.

USPA joins our general aviation brethren in fighting the user fee concept. Please take action now to ensure that Congress rejects the user fee idea.

On the Senate website, www.senate.gov, select your state from a dropdown menu in the upper right corner to be directed to your two Senators’ contact information. On the House of Representatives website, www.house.gov, enter your zip code to be directed to your one Representative’s contact information. A phone call is best, followed by an email, and even a fax; mailed letters take too long to arrive. In your contact, identify yourself as an aviation user, and explain how increased costs would affect your participation in skydiving—an FAA aeronautical activity. Ask them to reject the idea of new user fees for general aviation and to continue the collection of federal taxes on aviation fuels.

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Here is what I was able to put together. I know that a lot of you do similar parachute work, and if you can provide a similar customized response to your Congressman would be really good.

(Sent to Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, www.akin.house.gov)


It has been brought to my attention that user fees may again be proposed for General Aviation. I urge you to not support these fees, as they are expensive to administer and will compromise safety.

General Aviation is important to our country in many ways, and to impose user fees on pilots who are finding it more expensive every day to engage in the most basic of flights will stifle General Aviation.

As an example, I belong to a parachute research group (www.pcprg.com) that uses General Aviation and skydiving to test parachutes and to help develop parachute technology that helps keep American troops safe. You can find an article about us at www.gaservesamerica.com/stories/090929peek.html

It is an excellent example of General Aviation truly serving America.

Please do not allow user fees to increase the costs of our providing this service to our country.

Gary Peek
Central Regional Director,
United States Parachute Association
[email protected]
(636) 946-5272

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President Barack Obama’s administration proposed a $100 per-flight fee on corporate jets and other turbine-powered planes that use the U.S. air-traffic system.

The fee would raise an estimated $11 billion over 10 years, according to the president’s recommendations to the 12-member congressional committee charged with finding ways to trim the deficit. The fee is aimed at private aircraft, which currently don’t pay their fair share of costs of operating the aviation system, the administration said today.

About two-thirds of the air-traffic system is paid for by aviation excise taxes, including levies on airline tickets and on fuel. Last year these taxes raised $10.8 billion, according to the Department of Transportation.

There is a disparity between what airlines and their passengers pay into the system and what users of private aircraft pay, the plan said.

An airline flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco would generate $1,300 to $2,000 in taxes, depending on the number of passengers and what they paid for tickets. A private jet, which requires almost the same services from air-traffic controllers, would pay about $60 in fuel taxes, the plan said.

“General aviation users currently pay a fuel tax, but this revenue does not cover their fair-share use of air traffic services,” the plan said.
Opposition Mounts

A coalition of nine U.S. associations representing users and manufacturers of corporate and private aircraft issued a joint statement “expressing our unified opposition” to the proposal.

“Mr. President, many foreign countries have imposed per flight charges on general aviation and the results have been devastating,” the e-mail statement said. “Please do not go down the dangerous path and cost jobs in our community.”

General-aviation pilots pay their fair share of fuel taxes and a new fee would create “a costly new federal collection bureaucracy,” the groups said.

The groups that issued the letter include the Washington- based General Aviation Manufacturers Association, whose members include General Dynamics Corp. (GD)’s Gulfstream and Textron Inc. (TXT)’s Cessna; the Washington-based National Business Aviation Association, with members including PepsiCo Inc. and Humana Inc. (HUM), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, based in Frederick, Maryland, which has more than 400,000 individual members; and the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
NetJets Reacts

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A)’s NetJets, the largest U.S. firm selling fractional shares of corporate jets, issued a statement from Chairman and Chief Executive Jordan Hansell agreeing with the trade groups. NetJets, based in Columbus, Ohio, has more than 7,000 customers worldwide.

A similar proposal introduced by President George W. Bush’s administration was defeated in Congress after opposition by the same groups.

That plan, which was introduced in 2007, was supported by the airline industry, which argued that corporate aircraft owners should pay a greater share. This time, the Air Transport Association, a Washington, D.C.-based group representing airlines including Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL), has joined the opposition.

“We oppose any new taxes on airlines or their passengers,” ATA President Nicholas Calio said in a statement.

The Obama plan is aimed at pilots who fly under the supervision of air-traffic controllers.

Nearly all small private, piston-powered planes wouldn’t have to pay the fee, the proposal said. It would also exempt aircraft operated by the military or other government agencies, air ambulances and any flight that doesn’t require air-traffic guidance.
Experience is what you get when you thought you were going to get something else.


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The Obama proposal says the fee is to be charged to all flights in controlled airspace (most of the US) and excludes recreational flights by piston powered aircraft. Since skydiving is considered commercial flying and most dropzones are in controlled airspace the $100 per flight fee would apply.


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It took a while, but my Congressman finally responded to my inquiry. I knew there was a reason I vote for this guy. And he got me a Congress/Senate tour too B|

Dear Mr. Delair:

Thank you for contacting me regarding concerns about federal transportation funding and surface transportation. I appreciate you taking the time to contact me on this important issue.

Historically, Congress authorizes a new surface bill every five or six years. Surface authorization bills historically identify national transportation priorities as well as funding formulas that determine the amount of money states and programs receive. These priorities have ranged from high-speed rail to bike trails to highway and bridge repair. The last surface transportation authorization, SAFETEA-LU expired in 2009. Since then Congress has passed over a dozen extension bills to maintain federal financing of transportation projects.

The previously mentioned issues are just a portion of the issues that need to be addressed in the next surface transportation authorization. Transportation authorization bills are important for state and local governments as well as numerous small businesses, such as construction companies, engineering firms, and the companies that manufacture the supplies and equipment used to build transportation infrastructure. These businesses, as well as state and local governments, require a long-term and fully funded bill to allow them to plan out equipment purchases, manage their workforce, and prioritize projects.

The majority of federal funds used to finance surface transportation are from the highway trust fund, which is primarily funded by the federal gas tax. Over the last few years, the amount of money brought in by the highway trust fund has shrunk over the last few years and is continuing to shrink as Americans drive less and drive more fuel efficient vehicles. In the past, general revenue from the U.S. Treasury has supplemented federal transportation funding. I continue to work with my colleagues on the Transportation Committee to determine if there are other sources of revenue that will not impede the ability of the American people or commercial goods to travel across the country.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is working on the introductory language for the next surface transportation authorization bill. I will continue to work on this issue and keep your thoughts in mind while this issue moves through the Committee to the Floor of the House of Representatives.

I hope you will continue to share your thoughts with me on this and other issues. You can follow what I am doing in Congress and in the 15th district, you can sign up for my email newsletter on my website at www.house.gov/timjohnson, follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/reptimjohnson or Twitter at www.twitter.com/reptimjohnson. Please feel free to contact my office with any other future concerns.


Timothy V. Johnson
Member of Congress

The brave may not live forever, but the timid never live at all.

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>It took a while, but my Congressman finally responded to my inquiry. I knew
>there was a reason I vote for this guy.

I didn't see anything in there about user fees. Did you ask him about that, or was your question to him more general?

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Yes, the question was specifically concerning the user fees and a short statement expressing my objection to them. I can’t post the original question I sent in as it was an electronic contact form through his website. But trying to get a career politician to give you a straight answer to ANY question would require an act of Congress... wait a minute :S

The brave may not live forever, but the timid never live at all.

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