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FAA Funding Debate

I'm a private pilot. I haven't been very active over the past few years, but I still like to follow the goings on, because I plan to become active again in the future. The latest brouhaha is a proposed plan to change where Air Traffic Control (ATC) gets its funding from, basically reducing what the airlines pay and making general aviation (GA) pilots foot more of the bill. Obviously, as a GA pilot, I don't like it. Flying's expensive enough as it is (the reason I haven't been very active for the past several years), and when I do fly, I hardly ever use ATC. I fly mostly in uncontrolled airspace under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). I still talk to other pilots over the radio, but ATC doesn't have anything to do with it. (For you non-pilots, it's like driving your car. You use turn signals and what not to communicate with other drivers, but there's no central authority organizing where and when you can go.) The only time ATC really does anything for me is when I'm a passenger on an airliner, and airline tickets are already taxed to cover that. So why should I have to pay more taxes than the average citizen for a service that I don't use any more than they do? You can find a lot more information on AOPA's page

Anyway, on the Ercoupe Yahoo Group I'm a member of, one of the other members, Ed Burkhead, recently made a very good post about this issue. I've copied his message below.

Any of these thoughts that get refuted buy you gals and guys won't be included in the letter I'll send my senators shortly. My preliminary thoughts on user fees are these:

1. I pretty much never use the air traffic control system except:

a. I'm affected (penalized) by it because it keeps me out of areas in greatest use by airliners (even though their use may be just a few planes a day.

b. When I do use the medium-airliner-use airports, my use of the air traffic control system is mostly because it's imposed by the government on behalf of the airliners. It's not a "benefit" for me, it's an imposition.

2. If they want to impose a use tax on people who *use* the air traffic control system, let them charge the same per-occupied-seat tax on us as they do on the airliners.

a. It may, truly, cost as much for air traffic control to handle a Piper Cub at PIA as a 747 but the cost is there for the benefit of the 747, not the Piper Cub.

b. Thus, charging per person is more equitable than charging per plane.

3. We already pay our fees through existing taxes.

a. We pay our share through fuel taxes.

b. Moreover, we pay our fair share of the airliner-protection-system through general fund taxes - as we should. The benefits of airliner flights accrue to all of us through the economic benefits of moving people and goods.

c. To disproportionately charge the people who fly on private and business aircraft for the airliner-protection-system is unfair. We all benefit equally per person from the safety of the airliners.

d. It may be fair to charge a moderate per-person fee (ticket-tax) for aircraft using the IFR system, but I think it's better to keep the current funding system.

4. As we can see from the example of Europe, imposing user fees on non-mass-transport aviation is a powerful means of killing it.

5. A strong small and general aviation industry and environment is of value to all the population, witness the developments and science developed from Weick's W-1 as well as many other aircraft developed for the personal market.

Ed Burkhead

http://edburkhead.com

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