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Pilots may see additional fees in their future

Story by STEVE BROWN


 
Pilots operating aircraft as small as the Piper J-3 Cub could be subject to additional fees.
Courtesy of Geoff Collins
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In The Region:
The proposed 2013 budget for the Federal Aviation Administration calls for a $100-per-flight user fee on nearly every commercial flight in controlled airspace. It's been denounced by the airline industry, and as Steve Brown of Ohio public radio station WOSU reports, the proposal is especially concerning for pilots and operators at small regional airports.
New Fees possible for Pilot's futures

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“This is a 1972 Bellanca Super Viking,” says Ed Rusch.

Ed Rusch manages the Union County Airport in Marysville. He calls it an average county airport with 30 employees and about 100 takeoffs and landings on a nice day. The hanger stores and maintains planes like this four-seater Bellanca.

“All of the gadgetry that you see on the panel there, all the knobs and buttons and such, it makes this airplane capable to operate within the Air Traffic Control system,” says Rusch.

And that means it will be subject to the new fee. Rusch says $100 per flight will add up quickly for planes like this one that are used regularly.

“Well, if you consider if they go once a week, they have to go out and they have to come back, so that’s $10,400 a year if they operate in the system.”

Skirting the law
Rusch says the new fee could push pilots to skirt the law. The FAA permits flights without notice during good weather conditions, but pilots have to report takeoffs and landings when conditions worsen.

“If you are forced in inclement weather to file a flight plan and work with the FAA in the Air Traffic System and it costs you an extra $100, there are going to be a lot of people who aren’t going to do that. They’re just going to take off,” says Rusch.

The FAA and the White House did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but the budget proposal says the fee is intended to better distribute the cost of air traffic services. The agency says it’s essential for those who benefit from a world-class aviation system help pay for it.

Hurting the little guys
Selana Shilad is executive director of the Alliance for Aviation Across America, a trade group that represents smaller airports like Union County. She says it opposes the fee because airports and companies that drive the industry already pay more than their fair share.

“It would be very detrimental to them, particularly during an economic downturn, in terms of the extra tax burden, but also because of the additional administrative burden that it would levy open them,” says Shilad.

And Shilad says the fee would apply to more than just small commercial aviation, including smaller businesses such as some crop dusters and surveying businesses.

“It would apply to flight schools, businesses and a lot of different operators, including some who do medical transport, as well.”

Shilad says her group is watching for possible talks about the fees during the tax and spending negotiations in Washington.  Twenty-eight senators sent a letter to the White House earlier this year to officially oppose the fee.

 

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