June 13, 2013 - Facing a spectrum of unpalatable options, EAA today finalized a one-time agreement with the FAA to cover nearly $450,000 in expenses related to air traffic control services at the 2013 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh fly-in, which begins on July 29.
"Let me be clear: We have consistently regarded the FAA's move as holding AirVenture and GA hostage this year," said EAA Chairman Jack Pelton. "There was considerable, detailed thought given over the past month to every option and possible scenario. Ultimately, AirVenture's importance to the entire general aviation economy and community, as well as to EAA's year-round programs, was the overriding factor in our response. AirVenture will go on, and our attendees deserve nothing less than the best air safety and services we can provide.
"As far as we're concerned, this isn't over. We entered this agreement only because there was no other realistic choice to preserve aviation's largest annual gathering. We also look forward to FAA's leadership coming to Oshkosh this year to personally explain their policy to the nation's aviators."
Along with the completed agreement, EAA included a letter stating that it signed the contract under protest. Failure to sign with the FAA would have meant cancelling AirVenture, which would have been catastrophic for EAA's year-round programs. The agreement allows for a partial payment of the $447,000 total bill prior to the event, with the remaining sum to be paid after the FAA has completed its AirVenture duties at Oshkosh.
The FAA's demand for payment in relation to air traffic services, first unexpectedly revealed by the agency in mid-May, left EAA, exhibitors and others in a position where millions of dollars had already been committed to AirVenture 2013. In addition, refusal of FAA services or not meeting the agency's standards would have caused the FAA to void the necessary waivers that are essential for Oshkosh air operations during the event.
The one-time agreement will allow AirVenture to have a full complement of 87 FAA air traffic controllers and supervisors at the event for essential air safety services. Federal budget sequestration, however, will diminish the FAA's presence at Oshkosh this year in areas such as forums and exhibits.
Pelton added that EAA members and other aviation enthusiasts need to be involved to counter FAA's stated policy of expanding these financial demands on the nation's aviation events in future years. EAA maintains that this equates to the imposition of GA user fees without Congressional approval, and 28 U.S. Senators have already signed a bipartisan letter calling the FAA move unacceptable and demanding immediate reversal.
"Our quarrel is not with the hard-working FAA employees who do their jobs at Oshkosh," he said. "We understand that AirVenture and other GA events are pawns in the larger sequestration political standoff, so it's important that we stand together and let those in Congress and the White House know the importance of aviation. We will do that in Oshkosh and we look forward to having those who love the freedom of flight stand with us."