Obama Administration Looks To Charge Aviation Fee

New User Fee Could Undermine Aviation Safety in Alaska

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by Mike Ford

The Obama administration is attempting to add a user fee to the fiscal 2013 budget that could effect aviators across the country including Alaska.

At present, piston aircraft, public use flights and military aircraft would be exempt from the $100 dollar per flight fee. General aviation advocates fear it could undermine the advances in safety that have been made in Alaska over the last decade.Tom George, Regional Manager of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association points out the progress, "Between the weather camera program, the capstone program and the Nextgen equipment that's starting to be installed in the state, we've seen a tremendous improvement in the safety record"

The fee was designed to target Lear jet operators and corporate leaders that fly their own jets. Our Alaska delegation is strongly voicing their opposition,pointing out to the White House the dramatic effect it would have on Alaska's commerce and safety. Senator Mark Begich is leading the charge. "Moving mail or taking passengers or maybe its just four or five people being taken to a small village, because there is no other way to get them there. I think they view it one way and honestly I think they're confused. It is our job is to help clarify it for them"

The aviation community already pays a federal tax on fuel that pilots point out is relative to use. Some fear that adding another fee could promote a tendency toward unsafe practices among pilots.

"Right now" George points out "Those services today, not only in dense air space separate aircraft but in the less dense areas are providing weather information to pilots and letting pilots exchange reports. We think there would be a potential loss in safety if people start avoiding those services"

With more than 80 percent of Alaskan communities accessible only by air this new user fee would definitely have an impact on aviation in the 49th state.