April 6, 2007

The last two months have been unusually busy for your association. We have been aggressively involved in the “user fees” fight (might also be referred to as the triple fuel tax followed by cost for weather/tower/FSS/landing fee program.  See note "user fees" below). I don’t know about you but when fuel bumped up another buck a gallon last year my flying measurably declined.

Additionally, we are up to our collective necks in the ongoing Capstone/ADS-B program. It is valuable, proven, and needed, particularly in our state where much of our activity is non-radar environment. The terrain is a little different than say Florida, as well. Between the concentrated traffic in areas like the Part 93 area, the non-radar environment, the terrain challenges and the lack of a road system this program seems like a non-brainer, but now we are “working” with the feds to facilitate state-wide implementation. Lots of moving parts and expensive. This will be a challenge but we think a worth while one. (check our web site for updates if you are interested).  

The military has proposed an extension to the MOAs up north. Easy to say “doesn’t effect me,” but when you consider that ALL IFR TRAFFIC coming and going from Alaska is affected, and when you consider unilateral changes in authorized airspace will someday hit close to home then I believe we should be working closely with them so protect all the users. Sometimes this state isn’t as big as the map would suggest.

Closer to home we are right around the corner from the 2007 Trade Show! This year promises to be the best show yet as we have been granted the use of the extensive UPS ramp adjacent to the FedEx hangar. Expect to see an impressive military representation in addition to the wide range of civilian products. We always have need of talented folks like you! If you can give us some time please call the office. In return I’d offer to pay your entrance fee (if there was one).

Won’t be long and the Lake Hood complex will be active for the summer. You float drivers can anticipate to hear “Airmen’s Point” in place of “Jim Air” as a reporting point. (Thanks to our local controllers for help with that one). Besides making sure our ride is ready for ops, might be a good time to review part 93 and the reporting points and associated altitudes. Yes…it’s VFR, but who needs the surprise of co-altitude opposite direction traffic. Makes me and my passengers nervous. 

As always, the coffee is on and we are anxious to hear what concerns you. And what you are happy with. Let us know, and lend us a hand if you can. This is primarily a volunteer organization that depends on all of us. We can also use more members so get a friend to join and take advantage of our discounts and services. Makes a great gift for your friends outside who might enjoy the Transponder for a link up north.


Fly safe!  Joe


            I have reviewed the proposed “user fees.” I also attended a brief by a senior FAA spokesman sent to address “User Fees” by Senator Stevens. I believe I have a fairly comprehensive understanding of this proposal. Currently, the congress is acting on this issue and it is likely that what is approved by congress (presuming they do approve this plan or a version thereof) will be different then what the FAA asked for. That being said, my comments address the original FAA plan.

            The basic premise of this plan is to:

a.       Fairly allocate costs with those who utilize FAA services.

b.      Remove congressional oversight of the FAA

c.       Change how airports receive federal funding

How does this affect Alaska? Let me offer some thoughts on each aforementioned premise.

a. Fairly allocate costs with those who utilize FAA services.

Generally speaking the share of FAA expenses currently charged to the airlines (and large cargo outfits) will be reduced from around 97% to about half. This proposal lowers their fuel tax to 13cents/gal and adds user fees to their operations. (Interesting to note my sources claim that UPS and FedEx oppose this plan while all the passenger carriers support this plan). Thus users will each be billed every month for every ATC contact outside the terminal area, every penetration of class “B” airspace that culminates in a landing at the primary airport within that class B airspace, every flight plan, every weather brief.

GA will see the fuel tax raised from 19cents/gal to 70cents/gal. At this time GA would not pay user fees in addition to the 70c/gal. Corporate turbine aircraft I believe pay the 70c/gal plus user fees. They will be the most adversely impacted in my opinion.

Lets consider GA Alaska for a moment. The vast majority of GA aircraft depart from a state or private facility, fly VFR without the benefit of RADAR services (below 10,000’ most of Alaska is NOT under RADAR coverage) to another state, private, or off airport area again with no FAA provided services. We are then rewarded with 70cent/gal tax. Why? This in effect supports the GA activities in the lower 48.  What if all GA aircraft eligible for an autogas STC switch to autogas? The population of avgas buyers declines, the revenues from the fuel tax declines, so costs are simply passed on the those unable to switch thereby increasing the tax on avgas for those who continue to use avgas.  So much for “fairness” and properly allocating costs with users.

If you operate one aircraft or a fleet and use any FAA services you will need to deal with monthly bills for FAA services. They claim a “minor” inconvenience, but I suggest that blindly paying bills without any source documents means you will be trusting a new system to be completely accurate. And what do you do if your plane wasn’t in the air the day they charge you for ATC and filing services? Someone will spend a great deal of time working that issue.  Increased costs for the users is not captured in their proposal 

b.      Remove congressional oversight of the FAA.

Currently the FAA must submit a budget request to congress. The budget approved by the congress is what the FAA must honor that fiscal year. (Reminds me of how most of us live). This proposal both removes congressional oversight and eliminates any real requirement for fiscal restraint. Spent too much this year? Just raise fees in an attempt to properly assign costs to the users. Think we will ever see fees decline? Consider another “self sustaining” government entity: the post office. They are so efficient that companies like UPS and FedEx thrive. What alternatives do we have to the FAA? None. No oversight, no requirement for fiscal responsibility. Is that how you raised your kids or run your household?

c.       Change how airports receive federal funding.

I’m not as familiar with this one but as I understand it, funding for rural airports will be tied to the number of aircraft based at that airport. You can appreciate how that will adversely affect most of Alaska’s airports. So, while millions is spend paving around taxi way lights down south, we have airports that are unusable during breakup and the funding source for maintenance in improvements (from the feds) is drying up.

In summary, this is a BAD deal for Alaska aviation. The state that depends primarily on air commerce is the most adversely effected by this bill. Doesn’t sound fair to me. If you don’t agree with me or just don’t care then you are in good shape doing nothing. If you do care you need to write congressman Young and our senators or this will become our reality. And I’ll be buying a tank for my truck.



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