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User fees in Obama budget irk aviation group in Alaska

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During a release of the proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, the Obama administration on March 5, 2014 again proposed to establish a $100 per flight surcharge for air traffic services.

In Alaska this would mean that any aircraft reporting to use air traffic services could be charged a $100 fee for adhering to a mandated regulation for entering controlled airspace.

Aviation groups nationwide have opposed surcharges reasoning that aviation already contributes financially by paying a per-gallon fuel charge, federal excise taxes and general tax revenues.

The Alaska Air Carriers Association a group of over 180 commercial aviation industry businesses opposes the user fees as being unsafe by resulting in cost controls that can have an adverse impact on aviation safety, as pilots lose proficiency to avoid increased costs of operations.

The association also reasons that it is unfair to Alaskan residents who rely heavily on aviation transportation and the fees would likely be passed along to the travelling public. In most cases a flight to and from a controlled airport, even for short flights businesses would have to pay $200.

Additionally the AACA reasons that that it would be expensive for the government to collect the fees by creating yet another new collection agency. Also it is likely that the user-fee system would be outside of congressional control.

And finally something that our European aviators are familiar with, countries that have imposed per–flight charges have had a drastic negative effect on commercial and general aviation by adding more expense to long distance flights through multiple air traffic areas.

According to the National Business Aviation Association, a bipartisan group of Congressional lawmakers, governors, mayors, and industry officials continue to support the per-gallon fuel tax for similar reasons as the AACA. The NBAA suggests that fuel fees are assigned fairly, based on an operators use of the system. This plus the fact that fuel fees are easy to pay difficult to pay and don’t require creating a new collection agency.

Local pilots have voiced concerns over the use of ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) technology fearing the use of ADS-B will be a mechanism to track aircraft and collect billing information from the aircraft’s N-number registration.

Rob Stapleton can be reached at: robstapleton(at)alaska.net

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