June 19, 2007

Bill threatens private fliers

A bill under consideration in Congress has general aviation worried about their future. General aviation includes Pratt Industrial Airport and the companies that fly or maintain aircraft at the airport.

The new Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill includes creating a new $25 user fee for all turbine prop aircraft for every operation that uses air traffic control and creates a 360 percent increase in fuel taxes for general aviation. The combination would have a serious impact on all general aviation.
The fuel tax increase would impact the aircraft and businesses at the Pratt Airport including Farmers Spraying Service and the 25 aircraft based at the airport including two planes operated by Gateway Ethanol and one by Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, said Reid Bell, executive director for Pratt Airport Authority.

Some of the pilots and businesses said they could not afford to fly if the tax increase and user fee are implemented. The market for plane sales would drop and impact owners, airports and manufacturers, Bell said.

"If general aviation went away it would devastate Kansas," Bell said. "It would ruin us."

Kansas leads the nation in revenue generated by general aviation with $7 billion annually per capita or $2,500 per resident, Bell said.

The same bill eliminates a $0.043 per gallon fuel tax for big airlines. This amounts to a big tax break for commercial airlines at the expense of general aviation.

Kansas Congressmen are not supporting the bill.

"I will work to fight against this new scheme and to ensure that general aviation gets a fair shake from the FAA," said Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts.

The bill is headed to the Senate Finance Committee. Roberts is a member of the committee and he does have jurisdiction, said Sarah Little, Roberts's communications director.

Rep. Todd Tiahrt and Sen. Sam Brownback also oppose user fees, Little said.

A rationalization for the fee and tax increase is that the amount of general aviation traffic is creating problems at airports but the numbers don't support that conclusion.

"Four percent of total traffic at major airports is general aviation," said Selena Shailad, executive director, Alliance for Aviation Across America that opposes any user fees.

The AAAA was recently established to fight the bill and quickly grew to over 3,000 members.

By Gale Rose, reporter@pratttribune.com
The full of this article's can be read on the source at: Pratt Tribune

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