User fees a main funding pillar of plan that is 'solution in search of a problem'
The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) today joined other general aviation groups in opposing the measures outlined by the White House for reform of the nation's air traffic control system, telling the administration that dismantling the current system will devastate GA while not accomplishing the desired goals of efficiency and technological improvements.
A letter to President Trump opposing the "Principles for Reforming the U.S. Air Traffic Control System" was signed by EAA and 15 other general aviation organizations. The letter states the groups' "very real and long-standing concerns, which include but are not limited to user fees. These concerns are based on our operating experiences in these foreign systems and impact they have had on general aviation."
The White House principles statement supports removing air traffic operations from Federal Aviation Administration control and giving them to a new, non-profit entity that would be exempt from congressional oversight. In addition, the principles statement advocates for ending fuel excise taxes and creates a system that would make it self-sufficient through the collection of user fees to cover both the costs of operation and recapitalization expenses. The statement also specifically bars review or relief by Congress or the courts regarding any user fees that might be imposed by the ATC corporation. EAA has long been opposed to user fees for general aviation.
"The White House principles make a gross misrepresentation that the air traffic control system is broken, but the facts don't support the claim," said Jack J. Pelton, EAA CEO/Chairman. "This proposal is a solution in search of a problem. EAA supports modernization of the American airspace system, and progress is happening with the input of all the system's stakeholders. This new plan would do nothing to solve any current technology or efficiency issues, while undermining the world's most extensive general aviation system and disrupting the world's largest and safest air traffic control system. It is a bad idea, and EAA will continue to state that to those in aviation, Congress, and the public."
The GA group letter notes that the U.S. air traffic control system is the best in the world, moving more aircraft, more safely and efficiently, than any other country. Working with Congress, aviation stakeholders have been able to ensure that the ATC system operates for the public benefit, providing access for all stakeholders to airports, heliports and airspace, and encouraging competition and innovation. The letter also asks for ample opportunity for all stakeholders and citizens to carefully review, analyze and debate any proposed legislation changing the governance and funding for air traffic control.
Many of the White House principles are based on the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act that was shelved by the full House of Representatives and never taken up in the Senate last year. In April, EAA board member Joe Brown testified to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that privatizing air traffic control services was "deeply troubling" and would not benefit the public.