September 21, 2009 by Warren Morningstar, Executive Producer AOPA ePublishing
The airline complaint — propagated by NBC and USA Today — that airline passengers pay something towards general aviation airports, obscures what has been transportation tax policy for at least half a century. The federal government helps build a system connecting all parts of the nation, and users are taxed for the whole system, not just the part they use. More in this video blog.
Why didn’t he talk about the taxes that general aviation pays into the system? He talked about the taxes that airline passengers pay. And he showed what’s spent on general aviation public-use airports. But considering all the taxes, what percentage of the total, federal aviation budget does general aviation pay?
Something that I think cannot be overstated is the fuel taxes that each of the users of the system pay as well. Airlines and air carriers can apply for FET credits as a result of their operations whereas corporate jet operators and pleasure fliers cannot. Also, for on-demand air charter passengers, a segment fee or “tax” is charged for each passenger just the same as an airline passenger. Simply stated, airline passengers should pay taxes because they don’t pay anything for the system use.
Finally, people make the mistake thinking airlines pay all these taxes, but airlines pass these taxes on to the passengers. This is important to always keep in mind as well.
I was shocked at the transparent bias in the USA Today’s page 1 “news” item, and I encourage AOPA to continue the effort to counter this bias. I also agree with Jeffrey Moore about including comments about the fuel taxes paid by GA.
However, notwithstanding that I have been a GA pilot and user of GA airports for 38 years, I believe there are too many examples of sizeable federal fund grants for questionable upgrades and installations at very low-traffic airports. I know of several that fiit into this category, and its these examples that are fodder for the anti-GA crowd clamoring at the gates.
All well and good, but when will our story be on the front page in Bold headlines. Until that happens, our story, whether on the op ed page or page 20 will never have the same impact. We spend more time convincing ourselves, in publications that only we read, that we are a necessary part of the transportation system. We already know that. Stop preaching to the choir and put the assets where they will do some good.
Good points. But our first step must always be to start with pilots. No one can state our case better than we can. That said, AOPA is putting a great deal of effort into getting the word out, with the help of some very high profile pilots (Harrison Ford and Morgan Freeman) as well as a host of professionals who use their aircraft to provide critical services to their communities. These videos have good play to the broader public, through television commercials, local news outlets, and viral distribution on the web.
I think this same message would be more effective being delivered by a younger college co-ed, who is a pilot, in front of a teleprompter outdoors. That is not to say a guy with a scraggily grey beard in a cramped office reading off a piece of paper gets the point across.