FAA’s proposal to charge EAA for the Oshkosh Tower AirVenture® costs may appear to be UNWISE to some but DIFFICULT to all

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ARTICLE: FAA’s plan for AirVenture ATC user fees ‘troubling’

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AOPA is reporting that “FAA plans to charge the Experimental Aircraft Association for the travel costs, per diem expenses, and overtime pay of the air traffic controllers it deploys to staff EAA AirVenture.” Craig Fuller alleges that these user fees are part of an Obama Administration effort to compel General Aviation to pay for its ATC services on a daily basis. In response to that threat, the AOPA President cites the letter signed by 223 Members of the House opposed to such taxation. That’s not a good forecast for the likelihood that this charge will be implemented.

Clearly there are costs associated with AirVenture®. Historically the FAA has absorbed those expenses because the event is not only good for aviation, but the controllers who handle the traffic there consider it an honor. The shirts, which are issued to the men and women who work at OSH, are badges of honor which the participants wear with pride back at their home facilities.

AirVenture® provides a great opportunity for the FAA to interact with the general aviation community. There are sessions in which a variety of FAA experts and the dialogues benefit aviation safety. The GA pilots learn a great deal from these head-to-head meetings. Equally critical for good regulation, the FAA staff gains incredibly important insights from these conversations.

Aside from the governmental interaction, EAA brings technical experts in the design and operation of aircraft. Over 250 speakers contribute to the knowledge of all aspects of aviation. These forums educate the private attendees in an extremely condensed time frame. The synergistic moments are legendary.

At this 9 day convocation, all of the major general aviation manufacturers exhibit, and again, this affords the regulators a one-stop, hands-on opportunity to see what innovations are emerging in this segment. It is the largest civil aviation show in the world.

Historically the Secretary and/or the Administrator and/or the Assistant Administrator for Aviation Safety attend, visit the exhibits, watch the flying, speak and participate in “listening sessions.” If the FAA charges for ATC, either these will be VERY difficult interactions or FAA executives will not attend.

Given the above, it is reasonable to ask “why are these specific cost cuts being made?”

The impact of sequestration and subsequent congressional action required FAA to reduce travel costs, cancel or defer contracts, implement strict cost control procedures and impose furloughs on all employees, except the air traffic control workforce which were exempted subsequently by Congress. It is difficult for FAA to justify the additional cost including overtime pay for air traffic controllers to support this important event while at the same time furloughing all non ATC employees.

The resulting dilemma places FAA between a rock and a hard place which eventually may be resolved again by congressional action. A very sad state of affairs!

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