March 21, 2014 - EAA and the Federal Aviation Administration have signed two agreements - a Settlement Agreement and a nine-year Reimbursable Agreement - that provide EAA with assurance of air traffic control services on a consistent basis through 2022 for the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh® convention. This ends the uncertainty that began with the FAA's sudden assessment of ATC fees for the 2013 event and the potential that air traffic support might not be provided this year or in the future unless such fees were paid.
After EAA was forced to sign a one-year ATC agreement under protest in 2013, the organization filed a petition with the U.S. Seventh District Court of Appeals, arguing that the FAA has no legal right to charge for ATC services without clear Congressional authorization. That petition was still on the court docket with an uncertain outcome when agreement was reached. EAA was facing the same uncertainty for the 2014 event that air traffic services potentially might not be provided if the matter remained unsettled in the courts, as the FAA's plan was to continue to charge for AirVenture ATC services in the future.
"Our ultimate goal was to bring certainty and stability for AirVenture, for EAA and our fellow members," said Jack J. Pelton, EAA's chairman of the board. "Every possible option, from contract and volunteer controllers to canceling AirVenture entirely, was considered. EAA thoroughly explored the contract controller option and concluded that it was not available for 2014 or for the foreseeable future. There was also no assurance that, had EAA prevailed in its court case, the FAA would have agreed to provide ATC services at any price. No alternative solution was found that would permit AirVenture to continue in its present form. The stability of the organization on behalf of its membership mandated this difficult decision."
FAA will provide air traffic control and other personnel for AirVenture as in past years, with EAA covering the cost of travel, accommodations, backfill overtime, and other miscellaneous expenses. At the same time, the FAA agrees that if EAA does find a better solution to provide a high standard of ATC services at Oshkosh, EAA may move to that option with full FAA support.
EAA received support from other GA organizations and expressed its particular gratitude to International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) and Helicopter Association International (HAI) for the amicus curiae briefs that they filed in support of EAA's court petition. There also was bipartisan backing in Congress including direct contacts from the House and Senate demanding that FAA explain and justify the new fees.
"We had an excellent legal argument within our court petition that no doubt moved the FAA to discuss a long-term solution," said Pelton. "We maintain that the FAA does not have the authority to assess fees for ATC services, but the absence of a permanent political solution left EAA and all participants and exhibitors vulnerable to FAA non-participation in this year's event and potentially in succeeding years. On balance, we had to take this action in order to assure the continuation of AirVenture in the best interest of our members and their investment in EAA."
EAA is also providing additional information regarding the agreements, including a Questions and Answerspage. In addition, EAA Chairman Jack Pelton will host a free webinar on the issue on Tuesday, March 25 at noon CDT.