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Just Say No: H.R. 4441 The Aviation, Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Bill

aviation innovation reform and reauthorizationSYNOPSIS: General aviation, air charter service businesses and single-pilot operators will suffer if The Aviation, Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Bill (H.R. 4441) with user fees is passed. Sponsored by Representative Shuster, this bill transfers control of our national Air Traffic Control system to a private corporation.

Editorial – H.R. 4441, known in plain English as The Aviation, Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Bill seeks to privatize the U.S. Air Traffic Control System and provides for the assessment of User Fees for varying types of aircraft and operations.

Ed Bolen, NBAA President and CEO spoke February 10, 2016 in opposition to this bill. And it is well worth your time as an Air Charter or Air Taxi Operator to stand with Booth Aviation Consulting and NBAA in opposition to this attempt by powerful, well-funded special interests to usurp the Public Trust that is our National Airspace.

Attempts are being made to strip Congress of its traditional oversight role for funding and governance of the Federal Aviation Administration, by turning that authority over to a self-interested “board,” dominated by airlines…

H.R. 4441 calls for the creation of a private corporation: ATC Corporation. This corporation, to be run primarily by major airlines, will “determine when companies using some types of aircraft can fly, how much it will cost to do so, and what type of payment – including user fees – could be demanded of operators.”

This is ludicrous and creates yet another arbitrary, economic barrier-to-entry into different segments of commercial aviation.

U.S. Airspace

The skies over the U.S. are a national asset, and the general aviation community is committed to ensuring that the future funding and subsequent design of the national air transportation system will benefit all Americans. -NBAA

Privatizing our infrastructure is not the way to ensure safety or access to that infrastructure. One might consider other changes to the existing structure such as increasing the maximum age of hire into the ATC system particularly for individuals who are already working within the general aviation industry.

U.S. Airports Big and Small

In the USA, there are over 5,000 small towns in the U.S. with public airports. Only 500 or so cities in the US have airports with scheduled service. All of these airports serve General Aviation. Some of these airports are designated as “underserved by scheduled air service providers” so Federal incentives for an air charter operator to serve those airports have been created.

Representative Shuster’s Bill Provides for the Imposition of User Fees

These fees, however, are not imposed unilaterally and will be imposed arbitrarily. An example is the imposition of User Fees on some Air Taxi operators. If you are an Air Taxi operator serving rural or “underserved communities,” with a piston aircraft, you may be exempt from this tax. However, if you operate a turbo-prop or jet aircraft, you will pay those fees. This is arbitrary and creates an unfair advantage for businesses flying piston planes. Exempting piston-aircraft operators from those User Fees is arbitrarily not fair.

This is not to say I am in favor of everyone paying User Fees: I am not. User Fees should not be imposed at all.

Our ATC system is part of our U.S. Federal Infrastructure offering equal access to all people in the United States. Privatizing this public system would create unequal and inequitable access.

As a Commercial Air Tour and Air Charter provider, Skymax flies piston aircraft and uses these airports. Companies like Skymax depend on an educated, experienced, Federally-controlled Air Traffic Control system to provide safe separation services and clearances. Without this access, and with user-imposed fees, their ability to respond immediately to Customer demands would be hindered. Their growth would be determined not by the market but instead by the proposed ATC Corporation’s User Fee structure for their type of operation and type of aircraft.

Their business, their people and the people they serve, along with thousands of other people in aviation across the United States would suffer and the general public’s access to aviation services would suffer as well.

It certainly would make the dream of flight a nightmare for the average person who wants to learn how to fly or take a scenic flight. As for an on-demand charter business, it places many in an untenable position, essentially taxing them out of new markets relative to businesses with deeper pockets.

Federally-funded Airports are Part of The Public Trust

The airports that we all use today were paid for by the taxpayers of of pervious generations. They belong to us, each of us, and a part of the Public Trust.

Too many Airport Advisory boards across the country are filled with people who serve their community but know little about aviation. Some of these folks care nought for maintaining the Grant Assurances the Federal Government requires the Airport Owner or Sponsor to maintain. And still some are more interested in furthering their own business interests than maintaining the Grant Assurances tied to their federal funding.

It would be worth considering strengthening FAA oversight of airport operations in an effort to ensure that airport owners and sponsors are maintaining the grant assurances they agreed to. This would do more to stimulate growth and technological development in aviation than any proposed ATC Corporation could do.

A culture of safety and innovation is driven not by privatization and User Fees but by positive leadership and effective use of adequate resources, which we have. The proposed creation of the ATC Corporation is nothing more than a “landgrab” by private business interests. It is an attempt to take from the American Public what is rightfully ours and what rightfully belongs in the Public Trust.

The Aviation, Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization Bill is NOT. And you should write your Congress person and just say no to H.R. 4441.

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