They're Ba-ack!

April 15, 2012
There is nothing less moral than a guvmint that needs money

As the kid said in the Poltergeist II movie, “They’re ba-ack!” General Aviation (GA) user fees are back in full threat, and scarier than ever in this age of soak-the-so-called-rich. There is nothing less moral than a guvmint that needs money, so be warned that this time it could happen.

Let’s not forget for a second that we already have user fees in the form of fed fuel taxes on each gallon of fuel GA buys.

Guvmint argues that GA doesn’t pay its “fair share” of FAA costs. The theory is that one GA flight carrying a few “fat cats” takes up as much airspace and FAA attention as one airline flight carrying a planeload of pax. I wondered ‘bout that. So I asked a few questions…

AOPA’s Benet Wilson tells me that the airlines pay some $375 million in fed fuel taxes/year, whereas GA pays about $284 million/year. Hmmm… That puts the airline fleet paying about 1.33 times what the GA fleet pays per year. Gosh, for sure airlines fly way more than 1.33 times as many hour/miles as GA, whether you measure it by the fleet or per aircraft. So, how come their fuel taxes aren’t a lot more?

As Dan Hubbard, NBAA, points out, GA pays more than four times as much fed fuel taxes per gallon—repeat, per gallon—as airlines pay. So, who’s not paying their fair share?

The stated argument for airline’s cheaper fuel tax per gallon is that airlines are part of the air transportation industry and pay a lot more taxes in that area. Hmmm… Does anyone realize that Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, General Electric—GA users one and all—plus untold thousands of small-business GA flyers use their aircraft for business in industries that also pay huge federal taxes?

But Dan Hubbard and NBAA make an even better point. NBAA calculates that if you pulled GA operations totally out of the system—if there were no GA flights at all—it would cut FAA costs about 7%. Funny thing about that—GA contributes 6% to 8% of those costs right now. If GA quit flying, FAA costs might drop very little, remain the same, or even go up a little bit.

A not-to-be named someone asked me if I really trust NBAA figures more than guvmint figures. Hell yes!

Years ago this column pointed out that there is no fair way to collect enough taxes to cover what guvmint spends/wastes. Also, user fees don’t work unless—and that’s a huge unless—there is someone trustworthy to hold the bag of money. When I wrote that, the guvmint wasn’t even using the Aviation Trust Fund that was collected under the promise that it would be spent on aviation. They just sat on it for years. Since then, Congress went years without even authorizing the FAA’s budget except for numerous short-term extensions.

Tell your congressperson—and also those on the House Budget Committee—how you feel about user fees. See the following link provided by Jane Calderwood, VP Government and Political Affairs, Airport Council International:

About the Author

Ralph Hood | Certified Speaking Professional

Ralph Hood is a Certified Speaking Professional who has addressed aviation groups throughout North America. A pilot since 1969, he's insured and sold airplanes at retail and distributor levels and taught aviation management for Southern Illinois University.

Ralph Hood is also an award-winning columnist (he writes for several publications), a salesman and sales manager (he sold airplanes, for crying out loud!), a teacher (he taught college-level aviation management) and a professional public speaker who has entertained and enlightened audiences from Hawaii to Spain, and from Fairbanks to Puerto Rico.

  • Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), National Speakers Association
  • Past member, National Ethics Committee, National Speakers Association
  • Past president of Alabama Speakers Association
  • Member, Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame
  • Past National Marketing Mentor, AOPA Project Pilot