Inside the Fence

Back to the never-ending debate of funding the system; along with a few reflections, 20 years later ...

As the industry postures for the funding discussion now emerging in Washington — and the reauthorization (read: plan) for funding the system — it’s worth noting a few experiences from the trade show circuit.

First is the posturing of FAA; or, more exactly, the Associate Adminis-trator for Airports, Woodie Woodward. One gets the sense that today there is an above average mood of cooperation between airports and the FAA’s airports division when it comes to money. It has much to do with Woodward’s candor. It also has to do with a belief by airports that she knows their cause.

At the NAC in Tampa, one expected Woodward to jump out of her chair during a forum on issues — much as she did in Toronto at ACI-NA weeks earlier — telling industry there needs to be a “more open” debate.

Toward that end, she tells airports that FAA is open to a discussion on allowing them more operating economic freedom, something airport groups have sought for years.

Also at NAC, Ed Bolen, president of NBAA, reiterated business aviation’s position that it should pay for its use of the system by way of the fuel excise tax. The big statement: “General aviation wants to keep the fuel tax [but] we’re open” to the rate.

Bolen also maintains that much of the funding discussion needs to focus on the feds’ general fund contribution, which he says should be 30 percent, for funding FAA. Like FAA and others, Bolen is calling on industry to take on the debate now. “We have an opportunity to come together before it all falls apart,” he says.

Bolen is no stranger to change, or to taking on tough causes. He was an instrumental player in the successful effort to pass the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994.

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Twenty years ago ...

• The FBO industry was dying; last rites were being considered. Today, it’s dynamic ... and now enter the entry level jets. (See: GA Revitalization Act.)
• The microwave landing system was going to modernize ATC. MLS? Modernize ATC?
• The idea of $3.5 billion for AIP was a pipedream; the concept of a passenger facility charge to build terminals and other infrastructure was anathema.
• A terrorist threat? That only happens in other parts of the world. And besides, we have a circle of security around our country. Keeping guns off airplanes is the obvious approach.

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Thus begins our 20th year of publishing. Thanks for reading.