Tag Archives: AOPA

Passage of H.R. 915: industry groups ‘eerily’ harmonized… or are they?

Jim Swickard at Aviation Week has the following analysis in the wake of the FAA reauthorization bill passing the House:

The current FAA bill retains the FAA funding mix of excise taxes, fuel taxes and general fund contributions, but increases the general aviation jet fuel tax rate from 21.8 cents per gallon to 35.9 cents per gallon and increase the avgas tax from 19.3 cents per gallon to 24.1 cents per gallon. These were the same rates the Way and Means Committee endorsed in the previous Congress.

Industry groups stated their acceptance these tax hikes in lieu of user fees when they were proposed last year.

The Air Transport Association last year had complained vociferously that General Aviation was not paying its fair share of Air Traffic Control costs.  That argument was muted by AOPA, NBAA and NATA’s eerily gracious acceptance of the increased fuel taxes.

There are philosophical issues related to the U.S. General Fund contribution to the FAA and ATC budgets and the Obama administration wants to reduce that contribution and impose direct user fees after 2011, a prospect that would not upset the airlines. But that’s for tomorrow.

For now, all parties involved; industry associations, regulators and legislators can feel proud of their unity of larger purpose while not cluttering the playing field with their differences.  In other words, they have acted like aviators – to their great credit.

Can this collegial atmosphere hold through passage of a final bill by both the House and Senate, and the President’s signature?  Stay tuned.

Swickard’s view is compelling, though offset somewhat by the contents of a highly critical letter sent to Congress by ATA President James May (full text at Aero-News.net):

We have asked that Congress:

  • Expedite investment in and deployment of NextGen. The United States is at a critical juncture right now. Either we can accelerate the transformation of the ATC, to allow air transportation to grow in a safe and efficient manner while achieving environmental benefits, or we can risk bringing our economy and leadership in technology to a halt by failing to address our growing aviation capacity constraints. Leadership from the committee is needed to ensure that appropriate funding and program direction is in place to accelerate the deployment of this critical program.
  • Reject increasing taxes and fees on passengers. An increase in the maximum passenger facility charge (PFC) from $4.50 per segment to $7 per segment would impose an additional and unwarranted $2 billion tax increase per year on commercial passengers. With airport revenue eclipsing record levels – over $12.7 billion in 2007 – and with $27 billion in unrestricted financial assets, the imposition of an increased PFC tax is not only unwarranted, but also will further reduce demand for travel.
  • Protect our valued U.S. aviation repair facilities by ensuring that any requirements are applied in a manner consistent with U.S. obligations under international agreements. During recent conversations between U.S. trade associations and European officials, the Europeans have indicated that as a result of the current language in Section 303, many U.S. facilities would be subject to new, regulatory requirements by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Such duplicative, burdensome impositions are in no one’s interest.
  • Reject the automatic elimination of previously granted antitrust immunity (ATI) to carriers for international marketing alliances. DOT has approved international airline alliances because they produce numerous and substantial benefits, both to the public and the participating carriers. Arbitrarily terminating antitrust immunity will have a harsh impact on airline employees and cause a ripple effect across the travel and tourism industry at a time when the industry is already hobbled.
  • Maintain safety without requiring overly strict fire-fighting standards. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations have safely dictated staffing and equipment requirements for airport fire stations for years based on the needs within the airport boundary. Increasing staffing and equipment based on surrounding populations will not enhance airport safety but will increase costs unnecessarily. These are not legitimate safety claims and should be rejected.
  • Allow carriers to continue improving customer service without imposing unsafe or unreasonable deplaning requirements. In particular, we oppose a hard-and-fast rule requiring airlines to give passengers the option to deplane after three hours. Mandatory deplaning will have numerous unintended consequences that, ultimately, will create even more inconvenience for passengers and lead to even more flight cancellations.

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Trade groups, airlines lobby jointly for stimulus funds

from Bloomberg:

U.S. airlines and small-jet owners have joined forces to lobby for $4 billion in economic-stimulus aid, setting aside a two-year dispute over air-traffic control costs.

Nine Washington-area trade groups representing carriers, plane users such as PepsiCo Inc., and manufacturers including Boeing Co. are seeking aid to advance the government’s so-called Next Generation overhaul of air-traffic control technology. They say they want to ensure lawmakers don’t overlook aviation in the $775 billion stimulus plan proposed by President-elect Barack Obama.

“There’s recognition amongst all of us that the only way we’re going to move NextGen is if we’re united,” said Sharon Pinkerton, vice president for government affairs at the Air Transport Association, in an interview.

Those groups include the Air Transport Association, Regional Airline Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Aerospace Industries Association, National Business Aviation Association, Cargo Airline Association, Nationa Air Carriers Association, National Air Transportation Association, and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

In speaking about a possible stimulus package last week, American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey told reporters he felt his industry should benefit. From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

“I would like to think that the airline industry would merit a great deal of attention,” [Arpey] said. Airlines, rocked by skyrocketing fuel costs through the summer, were subsequently faced with an economic slowdown that has curtailed demand.
“We seem to have experienced an almost seamless transition in which our fuel cost crisis has been replaced by a potential air travel demand crisis,” Arpey told reporters.

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Industry groups submit their X-mas list to Congress

A coalition of aerospace groups has written to congressional leaders, requesting a laundry list of credits and investments that would help large industry players. Signed by AOPA president-elect Craig Fuller, the letter asks for:

  • $1 billion for the Airport Improvement Program
  • $3 billion to fund NextGen avionics (i.e. ADS-B transceivers, etc.)
  • Elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax on certain airport bonds
  • Extension of tax incentives for aircraft purchases through 2011
  • Early phase-in of planned tax incentives for domestic manufacturing
  • A permanent R&D tax credit

The AOPA has a summary of the letter here; you can find the full text PDF here.

Among the signatories: the AIA, ATA, ACC, ACI-NA, AAAE, CAA, GAMA, NBAA, Nat’l Association of State Aviation Officials, and the RAA.

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Jane Garvey on NextGen: ‘We don’t know what our vision is.’

The AOPA brought together a group of veteran DC insiders for a panel discussion at their expo this past week (article with video link here): James Coyne (Air Transport Association), Steve Alterman (Cargo Airline Association), Jane Garvey, and Ken Mead. Facing an audience that certainly has its own skepticism about ADS-B, panelists took the opportunity to express their reservations about the NextGen project — at least in its current incarnation.

Jane Garvey, former FAA Administrator: “We don’t know what our vision is for NextGen. No one can define it, no one can really describe it, and no one can say how we’re going to get there over the next 3 to 5 years.”

Ken Mead, former DOT inspector general: “With all respect, NextGen is something that … there’s not much ‘there’ there. It is the functional equivalent of … it’s more of a slogan than anything else. A very clever slogan, I might say, because it has gotten a parade way out in front of it, and only now are people sitting back and saying: what is this thing, how much is it going cost, when is it going to be delivered, what are we going to do with our system for the next five years?

Mead went on to suggest that the new administration might be a source of clear-headed thinking on the issue.

I believe that the Obama administration will come in and identify three big priorities in aviation. One will be labor-management relations. The second will be defining NextGen, costing it out, and really doing the very clinical in-depth surgery on where NextGen is. It would be a very serious mistake if they just say: ‘Oh yeah, let’s go, let’s move out and deploy NextGen, no sweat.’ So that’s the prediction. And number three, of course, will be the financing of FAA.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press published an in-depth list of possible candidates for cabinet-level posts in the new administration. Among the options mentioned for Transportation Secretary: Mortimer Downey, Ed Rendell, and Jane Garvey. (Newsweek also likes Jim Oberstar, Tim Kaine, Kathleen Sebelius, and Valerie Jarrett.)

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Presidential candidates’ views on FAA succession are vague, similar

The Aicraft Owners and PIlots Association (AOPA) asked the campaigns for both presidential candidates identical questions of interest to the GA community (link here). The last question was phrased as follows: “What specific qualifications will you look for when nominating an FAA administrator?”

John McCain: “The FAA is going to face some major challenges during the next administration—the toughest challenge will be getting the “next generation” air traffic control system on track. The country needs a modernized system if we are going to avoid gridlock in the air. If I am elected president, I will search for an administrator who will be a strong leader with the experience and management background needed to ensure that the FAA succeeds in modernizing the air traffic control system for the benefit for both commercial and general aviation.”

Barack Obama: “I will appoint a qualified FAA administrator who has an unwavering commitment to public service and will put the safety and security of the American people ahead of partisanship and ideology. I have been extremely concerned about reports of the FAA’s actions the past seven years, and I am committed to turning back some of the recent failures and creating an FAA that is responsive to public concerns, as well as concerns from aircraft users across the country.”

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AOPA’s Boyer cites JPDO in lobbying for a “special emphasis” on GA

It might be a slight stretch, but AOPA President Phil Boyer is claiming a shared vision with the JPDO over the future of America’s smaller GA airports. In an open letter to Acting FAA Administrator Robert Sturgell (press release), Boyer argues for a

special emphasis on preserving and improving America’s general aviation airports [and] increasing all-weather access to those airports

The release goes on to link the AOPA’s goals to statements from the JPDO about airport preservation:

Boyer noted that the Joint Planning and Development Office, which is leading efforts to implement the next generation air traffic control system, has identified the need to preserve the nation’s airport system and called on the FAA to do all it can to help the preservation effort.

“The FAA must build on this visionary work and focus resources on developing plans, policies, and budgets that not only preserve the airports that we have today, but also ensure their future through infrastructure investments.”

Boyer’s letter comes as the AOPA lobbies for changes to the current FAA Flight Plan, an annual document laying out the agencies road map for the next five years.

[Kudos to Aero-news.net for their coverage.]

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