Turning the US into Europe with general aviation user fees

Over in the USA, general aviation pilots are increasingly up in arms over the Obama administration’s proposal for a $100 per flight fee for any aircraft operating a flight plan in controlled airspace (with an exemption for piston aircraft). And while the proposal has the potential to really stick it to general aviation pilots (after all, how hard will it then be to later remove the exemption?), it also sticks to the Obama administration’s fairness in taxation doctrine (e.g. soak the rich private jet owners and users) and will further have the US resembling Europe when it comes to both taxation and general aviation.

Obviously, the aviation press and blogosphere is up in arms with Richard Collins on Air Facts and Paul Bertorelli on AVwebinsider all have extensive articles with plenty of reader comments about the current proposal. Paul asked in his article whether anyone can make a convincing argument that the FAA spends the money it already gets wisely and that it needs even more revenue. He also pointed out that a sleepy neighboring airport of his that has “proven unusually adept in navigating the government grant business” now has a 12-story control tower worthy of a busy metro airport – without the aviation traffic to match it.

However and as Richard Collins pointed out on Air Facts, just because corporate jets are being singled out and have been thoroughly demonized by the media and politicians, don’t think for a moment that your propeller airplane won’t be included. Richard then asked his readers if they think user fees in addition to fuel taxes are justified and what the best arguments to use against these fees are.

Of course, a few European pilots posted comments about how general aviation user fees have decimated general aviation in Europe, with Javier summarizing the situation by writing:

Well, the best example to not put these fees is how the general aviation works in Europe, where you have to pay for everything, making GA really expensive as you usually have to add around 40-60$ per flight just to have the privilege to take off and land in a controlled airport.(30$ in a non towered) Then add the fee for parking or the fbo services plus the fuel. Here in europe you won’t find GA traffic at all as it’s ridiculously expensive to fly an a/c, I’ve been flying in CA and it was a great experience, please save GA as you know it.

Another reader also commented that when user fees kill general aviation in the US like in Europe, there will be huge fuel tax losses for the government plus a few other readers noted that it becomes a safety issue as some pilots will inevitably try to avoid the user fees by not using ATC.

In other words, American pilots should enjoy general aviation in the USA as they know it right now because is may soon go the way of general aviation in Europe.

3 Responses to Turning the US into Europe with general aviation user fees

  1. Micah February 28, 2012 at 22:39 #

    Fuel taxes are the best solution, if any solution is required to increase revenue from flying activities. Harvard economist Greg Mankiw argues well for increasing US taxes on auto fuels and the idea translates well for aviation fuels. What is missing in much of the US debate is how smaller operators are carrying the burden for airlines, who consume so much of ATC’s operating time/cost. Fuel consumption (and therefore fuel taxes) is probably the best correlation to ATC consumption and if FAA revenues need to excised from operations, fuel taxes are probably the most efficient (and fair). Also, it should not be missed that if flat fees are attached to piston aircraft for ATC services, this can only be expected to decrease flying safety. This will make training and currency/proficiency flights much more difficult on the pocketbook and will force more pilots to skip out on training for economic reasons. We can’t expect this to make any positive (nor even neutral) impact on the quality of pilot skills or overall safety.


    All pilots should join the Pigou club.


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