Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Blasts FAA Funding Proposal

AOPA says the administration's proposed FAA refinancing bill is a "manufactured crisis based on flawed financial assumptions about the viability of the current funding system and the cost of the 'NextGen' airtraffic control system."

FREDERICK, Md., Feb. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) today blasted the administration's proposed FAA refinancing bill as a "manufactured crisis based on flawed financial assumptions about the viability of the current funding system and the cost of the 'NextGen' airtraffic control system."

"Our government is backing away from the safest and most efficient air transportation system in the world, and setting in motion the steps towards privatization," said AOPA President Phil Boyer . "This proposal is nothing morethan a cynical attempt to shift FAA costs to a different set of tax payers, and to take control of the agency away from Congress and put in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and airline executives.

"It doesn't save money, and it doesn't make the FAA more efficient," Boyer continued. "This bill would be a disaster for consumers, general aviation pilots, and all the communities ignored by the airlines that depend upon general aviation for safety, commerce, and air transportation."

Senior FAA officials briefed Boyer and other aviation industry leaders on the "Next Generation Air Transportation System Financing Reform Act of 2007" Wednesday, prior to releasing the text to the public.

No justification for change

The FAA has attempted to argue that it needs to change the financing system in order to pay for the NextGen air traffic control modernization program.

"We support the need to modernize, but listen to the weasel words carefully," said Boyer. "They never say that the current, proven tax system cannot raise necessary funds for NextGen."

In fact, the administration's bill would raise less money than the current tax structure -- $600 million less in the first year, according to the President's fiscal year 2008 budget submission.

The Department of Transportation's own projections show the currentfunding system would generate more than $20 billion through 2012 for the FAA'sFacilities & Equipment account.

That would almost double the amount that the FAA has spent on equipment and modernization over the last five years, and it confirms AOPA's earlier analysis of available revenues under the current tax system.

And when asked point blank by aviation subcommittee Chairman JerryCostello during a hearing Wednesday if the current tax system could fund NextGen, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey reluctantly admitted that it would.

"It begs the question, what is the problem we are trying to solve?" said Boyer.

No tax break for consumers

While the administration claims that its proposed financing system "provides tax relief," Boyer called that a semantic game designed to mislead.

"Whether you call it a tax or a user fee, the consumer -- airline passengers and GA pilots -- still have to pay it," said Boyer. "The tax burden may shift from one group to another, but the only 'relief' is from Congressional oversight of an agency that has a history of overspending and mismanaging large modernization projects."

The proposal would, in fact, more than quadruple the taxes that individual pilots pay. Nine out of ten general aviation pilots have told AOPA that they would quit flying were taxes to increase that much.

Who's in control?

The proposal puts Congress in the backseat when it comes to the agency's largest "line of business" -- air traffic control. The authority to set user fees and spend money for air traffic control would rest with the FAAadministrator and the airline-dominated Air Transportation System AdvisoryBoard.

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