Voice of Public Benefit Flying"
SPECIAL BULLETIN April 11, 2007
Dear Volunteers, Leaders, Staff Members, and Friends of Public Benefit Flying -
Have you heard the news? Tuesday, April 10, 2007, a new organization was announced.
Please take a moment to learn about the Alliance for Aviation Across America.
The purpose: to champion the interests of general aviation and the communities it serves, and to tell how important it is to the public.
The immediate threat: the current user fee scheme which could decimate public benefit flying and hurt hundreds of general aviation airports.
The solution: the twelve members of the Air Care Alliance Board, representing a wide spectrum of volunteer pilot organizations, voted unanimously for the Air Care Alliance to join in supporting the mission of the Alliance for Aviation Across America.
We ask you and your public benefit flying organization to do the same.
Please visit the website for the new Alliance at www.aviationacrossamerica.org, read about the campaign, and click the JOIN THE ALLIANCE button.
In order to provide you additional information I will include below the following items:
Please do not hesitate in joining with your fellow volunteer pilots, their organizations, and other aviation groups in support of this campaign.
And thank you once again for flying to help others!
Rol Murrow, Chairman and President
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Work: (202) 223-9523
Cell: (202) 550-2547
Airport Officials, Rural, Agricultural and Charitable Organizations, Local Officials, Aviation Professionals, and Businesses Unite in Broad Coalition Against Administration “User Fees” Tax Proposal
Washington, DC – Representatives from rural and agricultural groups, charitable organizations, community airports, as well as aviation professionals, local officials and small businesses today announced the formation of the Alliance for Aviation Across America, a coalition formed to fight the commercial airline-backed “user fees” proposal to impose take hikes on small businesses and towns across America. The coalition members include the League of Rural Voters, National Association of State Aviation Officials, Air Care Alliance, National Farmer’s Union, National Agricultural Aviation Association, the National Business Aviation Association, Angel Flight, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and hundreds of small and medium-size businesses from around the country.
“Our coalition is here to send a clear message to lawmakers that we stand united against a radical “user fees” proposal which would decimate businesses and communities around our country through a huge tax hike. This special interest legislation would benefit no one but the big commercial airlines,” said Gene Wright, Mayor of Quinwood, West Virginia, pilot and coalition member.
The “user fees” proposal was introduced as part of the Administration’s plan for FAA reauthorization, and would directly offset a multi-billion dollar tax break for the airlines by imposing a new tax hike on general aviation -- the businesses, organizations and farmers and ranchers that use small planes. User fees in Europe, where enacted, have become “suffocating and extensive,” according to Carl Davis, coalition member and small business owner, and now include everything from pilot certification to safety-related weather checks. The administration proposal also includes a tripling of the tax on aviation fuel to $.70/gallon, up from its current rate $.19 on average.
The airlines’ justification for this new tax is that somehow a small turboprop carrying 3 passengers imposes the same costs on the air traffic control system as a jumbo jet carrying 300 passengers even though all independent data show that it’s the design of the airlines hub-and-spoke system that creates the bulk of the air traffic control costs.
“This hub-and-spoke network, which moves thousands of flights through big hub airports, particularly during peak hours, is what creates the demand for most of the staff and resources, including senior air traffic controllers and specialized equipment,” according to Coz Passalacqua, pilot and coalition member.
Paradoxically, the major airlines insist that the proposal they back is critical for modernization, but seem to overlook the fact that it not only cuts the airline’s contribution to modernization efforts, but it slashes overall FAA funding by more than $600 million – funds that could otherwise be devoted to modernization efforts. “The system is not broken” said Chip Gibson, coalition member and Mississippi-based small-business owner, noting that the Airport and Airways Trust Fund (AATF) is generating record revenues, and that the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Government Accountability Office have all testified before Congress that the current funding structure can support the estimated costs of modernization.
Members of the coalition also questioned whether user fees were really just a first step toward a highly controversial effort to privatize the air traffic control (ATC) system, reduce Congressional oversight, and give the airlines considerably more control over the day-to-day management of the system.
“We need to modernize our air traffic control system through full funding and accountability. Cutting $600 million in funding for our air traffic control system and levying billions in taxes on small towns and businesses is just wrong,” said continued Wright, referring to the big airlines/FAA proposal.
According to numerous experts, the airline-backed proposal could impose severe economic hardship on the airports, small towns and communities which are served by the general aviation industry and largely ignored by the commercial airlines. “Community airports that serve small towns are critical to our security, our mobility during national emergencies, and to our local economies” said Niel Ritchie, president of the League of Rural Voters and coalition member. General aviation is crucial for medical care, disaster relief, traffic enforcement on rural highways, wilderness search and rescue, and business growth for small communities. In fact, during Hurricane Katrina, when roads were often impassable due to heavy flooding, some 400 small aircraft evacuated around 23,000 people and delivered tons of supplies to relief workers in just five days.”
“The airline-backed plan is a poison pill for rural towns and communities across America. This huge tax hike would ground many of these small planes and puddle jumpers that are the lifeline to these communities, impacting access to specialized medical care, disaster relief, and business resources,” continued Ritchie.
The airline-backed FAA bill also slashes funding for the Essential Air Service Program and the Airport Improvement Program, and eliminates funding for the Small Communities Air Service Program, all of which are critical for the preservation of the airports. In fact, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Aviation Subcommittee estimates that approximately 300 airports would lose their current grant funding under the new proposal.
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Air Care Alliance Talking Points
Rol Murrow, Chairman and President
April 10, 2007 Press Teleconference
Alliance for Aviation Across America
User Fees and Flying for the Public Benefit
Thank you for this opportunity to say why the ill-conceived user fee proposal can be so devastating for those who fly to help others.
The Air Care Alliance lists and supports more than seventy organizations whose members fly aircraft to perform charitable missions of public service.
We see three major problems with the user fee scheme. The problems concern the economics of public benefit flying, safety of flight, and the loss of a say in how airports and airspace may be accessed by volunteer pilots and their passengers.
Tens of thousands of pilots volunteer themselves and their aircraft to fly public benefit missions. They may use their planes for business during the week, but are willing to give of their time and money to fly patients for care at other times. If costs go up significantly and they must reduce their flying then it is likely their public service missions will be the first to be cut.
This would drastically curtail the availability of charitable aviators to fly blood and medical supplies and patients, perform search and rescue missions, or otherwise serve those in need, especially in the smaller or more remote communities which the airlines do not serve.
Safe operations will also be jeopardized. If a pilot is already struggling to pay the high costs of flight, he or she should not have to make safety decisions influenced by user fees. For instance a pilot with patients aboard might be flying in the clouds in unforecast and deteriorating weather conditions. That pilot should not have to decide whether to fly in marginal conditions into a low cost airport with minimal facilities, or to fly into a well equipped larger airport instead - knowing it could cost hundreds of dollars more in facility fees.
Finally, it is foolish to think that a privatized aviation system dominated by the airlines will be managed for the benefit of the public. The system will be optimized for the airlines’ benefit. We saw this in the eighties in Los Angeles when the airlines muscled the FAA into closing several critical visual routes used by general aviation pilots. Small planes were forced into congested, longer routes and faced increased midair collision risks as well as danger to those on the ground. Fortunately after a massive outcry and several close calls the bad decisions were reversed.
The lesson we learned then was that any scheme permitting one class of users to run the system is bound to be unfair to all others, and to the public welfare, which we all serve. We must keep Congress in charge of our air transportation system.
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Again, please visit the website for the new Alliance at www.aviationacrossamerica.org, read about the campaign, and click the JOIN THE ALLIANCE button. Please ask your group to join in support too.
Please circulate this message by forwarding it to leaders and supporters of your own group and to all others supporting public benefit flying.
Air Care Alliance website and contact information: http://www.aircareall.org
Note: information about this announcement including your options
for starting or ending participation are published on our website at
Thank you for flying to help others!
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