PUSH BUILDS TO CHARGE PRIVATE JETSFOR LANDING

US Airways pays about $150 to land its new nonstop flight from Las Vegas at Palm Beach International Airport. But when Donald Trump flies into town in his private jet, he pays nothing. About two-thirds of the other airplanes that use the airport...


Owen Gassaway Sr., president of Florida Airmotive, the fixed-based operator -- a company that provides services such as food and gas for general aviation -- at Lantana Airport, would see his company's profits soar if landing fees were imposed at PBIA because more planes would fly into his airport. But Gassaway, a longtime member of the county's general aviation community, is opposed to the fees. The industry already pays its fair share, he said.

The airport does not provide any direct services to general aviation pilots, except for field lighting and grass cutting around the tarmac. The fixed-based operators, who pay rent at the airport, do the rest, Gassaway said.

"When you go out on the street and you put yourself on the corner with your hat out, you do that because you are short of money," Gassaway said. "To be sitting as a fat cow and say you know there is money over there we can get, I think that's not our system."

At PBIA, the cost of maintaining and running the airfield makes up about 10 percent of overall operating costs, airport officials said.

"What we are talking about is how we divide 10 percent of our overall cost between the commercial carriers and GA," said Pelly, the county airports director. "We just need to figure out the best way to accomplish it."

Staff researchers Melanie Mena, Sammy Alzofon and Niels Heimeriks contributed to this story.

~jennifer_sorentrue@pbpost.com

Air traffic to soar

The number of flights by smaller general aviation planes at Palm Beach International Airport dropped by 20 percent from 1996 to 2006. Meanwhile, the number of commercial airline and air taxi flights has increased. The Federal Aviation Administration predicts general aviation numbers will bounce back 30 percent by 2025 while commercial flights will increase by nearly 50 percent.

Number of flights,in thousands, actual and projected, 1996 - 2025 for general aviation, commercial airliners and air taxi.

Note: Air taxis are for-hire aircraft with a maximum seating capacity of 60 seats or a maximum payload capacity of 18,000 pounds. They carry passengers or cargo.

Source: Federal Aviation Administration

A month of flights at PBIA

About 4,600 general aviation flights took place at the airport in September - roughly 660 more than the number of commercial flights. In all, there were only eight days (see dates in bold) on which the number of commercial flights outnumbered general aviation flights.

Number of flights at PBIA September 2007, by day, for general aviation, commercial airliners and air taxi.

Note: Air taxis are for-hire aircraft with a maximum seating capacity of 60 seats or less or a maximum payload capacity of 18,000 pounds or less. They carry passengers or cargo.

Source: Federal Aviation Administration

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