Archive for January, 2012

User Fees…..Really??!!

Monday, January 16th, 2012

So, the Obama Administration budget negotiators last year suggested a $100 per flight operation user fee during the debt ceiling negotiations — Congress said, “no.”

Then, the Obama Administration budget team suggested last year that the Super Committee consider the $100 per flight operation user fee – Congress said, “no.”

During this debate last year, one of our energized AOPA members noticed that The White House set up an online system allowing citizens to petition The White House on issues of the day.  If you get enough people to sign the petition, someone from The White House will review your sentiments and respond. 

Well, almost 9,000 people “signed” the petition calling on The White House to abandon it’s user fee dreams.

Then, on Friday the 13th the grim reaper appeared.  The White House official who reviewed the petition issued a written statement saying basically, thanks for your willingness to pay for air traffic control services through aviation fuel charges, but we really want to go and create a whole new bureaucracy that can collect $100 for every flight operation requiring ATC….oh, we are willing to exempt some of you…so, don’t worry….just trust us…you will really like our plan!

Sorry, this remains a non-starter with us!

When you look around the world you find that once the user fee bureaucracy gets built it needs to be fed more and more revenue just to be self sustaining.  So, plans that are narrowly directed soon spread to more aircraft and the fees go up.

And, what’s the rationale?  One business aircraft pilot and member wrote me and explained that he might take a plane to an airport to pick up a passenger, deliver the passenger to his or her chosen airport and return to the home field.  Three legs would be $300….maybe more than the pilot made!

Honestly, The White House statement was not that much of a surprise….they just won’t let go of this bad idea and we expected to see it in the President’s Budget in February.  What was a surprise was the timing.  But, hey, thanks for the headstart.  We will build opposition to this idea yet again.  If only our budget bureaucrats would work as hard at actually passing the FAA Reauthorization legislation that provides funding for important projects around the country that will produce jobs as opposed to building a user fee bureaucracy.

Of course, doing real policy work during a very political year might be expecting too much!  I suspect this is only the most recent example of policy by pollster.  No one really did the policy analysis here, but the pollsters told the campaign team that taking yet another shot at businesses using aircraft is a great idea.  By the way, those pollsters might want to check with the workers who build the best aircraft in the world to see how they are liking this campaign theme!

Here’s our AOPA ONLINE story that broke late last week….click here.

A Trip to Hawaii for the AAAE Aviation Issues Conference and More!

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

A few days ago, I headed to the annual Aviation Issues Conference sponsored by the American Association of Airport Executives.  It’s the 26th annual conference and most of them have been held in Hawaii.

Given that this very desirable destination is not one I get to very often, I arrived a few days early for meetings with our AOPA members.  It has been a fascinating few days!

Events started with a one on one meeting with an avid aerobatic pilot, AOPA member and President and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, Mark Dunkerley.  Mark has a wonderful perspective on aviation in the whole region and it was a pleasure having the time with him at the beginning of my visit.

It was especially nice because Mark issued an invitation immediately accepted to take a flight in Hawaiian Airlines’ very first aircraft, a Bellanca built in 1929.  This was a remarkable experience.  A few photographs are shared here from our flight.  To really understand this amazing aircraft and Mark’s vision in rebuilding it, you must watch his video — just CLICK HERE.

Later in day in Honolulu, we organized a Town Hall meeting with the help of Hank Bruckner, the general aviation officer in the State of Hawaii’s Airports Division.  Attendance was excellent and the wide ranging discussion was very enlightening.  Our fellow GA aviators in Hawaii face some remarkable challenges for a state that has utilized aviation throughout it’s history.  All airports in the State are owned by the State and this presents some very unique challenges.

In developing our new network of AOPA Regional Managers, we’ve asked AOPA’s John Pfeifer to take the lead with Hawaii where our GA community can really use some support.  One great thing going for us is a group known as the General Aviation Council of Hawaii.  This  group is committed to advancing GA issues and is effectively lead by Rob Moore.

Rob also plays a key role as the chief flight instructor at Galvin Flight, a flight training organization that has been operating since 1930!  Galvin Flight is based at the Kalaeloa Airport.  Rob and some of his members gave me a tour of this facility which the State of Hawaii took over from the military in 1999.  The plan has been to develop it as the leading general aviation airport in the state.  Progress has been very slow.  This clearly represents a great opportunity, but a good deal more commitment by the state is needed if the vision for this airport is ever going to be realized.

Tower at Kalaeloa Airport

The ramp....lots of opportunity!

 

                       After these very informative discussions in the Honolulu area, it was time to move on to the big island of Hawaii, where the AAAE meeting is being held along the Kohala Coast. 

Today, I had the chance to address the AAAE board and policy committee and tomorrow the 300 plus participants will hear a presentation from several of us on the issues impacting general aviation.  The opportunity to address the leaders who run our nation’s airports is important for there a critically important relationship between those of us who fly and those who manage our airports.

Many thanks to Chip Barclay and his fine team at AAAE for the invitation and the organization of this very fine program.