The Air Transport Association has presented the unified vision of its 19 member carriers for funding a next-generation air traffic control system as part of the FAA Airport
and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) reauthorization.For the first time in more than a decade, ATA member airlines
collectively endorsed a Statement of Principles, calling for a new
cost-based approach to operate, maintain and modernize the National
Airspace System (NAS). Under this unified effort, ATA has launched a
national campaign, Smart Skies: A blueprint for the future, aimed at
educating the public and lawmakers on the need to smartly modernize the
NAS and to strive toward implementing a fair funding mechanism.
“We are at a historic juncture for U.S. aviation and ATA member
airlines have joined together in a call for change,” said ATA President
and CEO James C. May. “Our country’s economy depends on aviation and,
without some change in the status quo, the system will not be equipped
to meet future demand.”
Speaking at a media briefing, May was joined by Campbell-Hill
Aviation Group Chairman Dr. Brian Campbell, who released his firm’s
report: Commercial Aviation and the American Economy. The report
summarizes the estimated impact of commercial aviation on the U.S.
economy in 2004, at the state and congressional district levels.
“The commercial aviation sector has a significant impact on the
U.S. economy, based on air transportation and airport services,
manufacturing, and travel and tourism expenditures from air passengers,”
said Campbell. “In 2004 alone, commercial aviation drove $1.2 trillion
in economic activity, $380 billion in personal earnings and 11.4 million
May noted that the AATF reauthorization process provides a
one-time opportunity to create a structure that ties funding directly to
use of the system. “Trust Fund revenues are unpredictable because they
depend upon fluctuating ticket prices and aircraft size,” he said. “How
can we determine how best to spend federal funds when there’s no way of
knowing how much revenue there will be? As long as there is no direct
link between funding and costs, much needed modernization cannot occur.”
In addition to continued General Fund contributions, the ATA
guiding principles state that the new mechanism for operating,
maintaining and modernizing the NAS must include the following 10
1. Congress must determine and
impose a specific schedule of mandatory user charges - directly and
proportionally linking system use with system costs - which are fair,
equitable and simple.
2. Each user category may rely
on its preferred collection mechanism, providing that each such category
does not impose any burden on commercial aviation that is not
3. Transition over a reasonable
period to a metric, in lieu of existing commercial aviation taxes, for
assessing aircraft charges based on a percentage formula that
incorporates only number of “departures” and “time in system.” The
departure charge may vary for nighttime operations and size of
4. Revenue to be segregated
from other government revenue and dedicated exclusively to airspace
system operations, maintenance and enhancements.
5. A dedicated revenue stream,
ensuring that revenues are spent in a timely manner for the intended
purpose, without additional congressional action.
6. Use of a dedicated funding
stream that is authorized to support bond financing, ensuring maximum
leverage of available financial resources.
7. A reformed administrative
structure, providing for a direct role in governance proportional to the
extent of each user category’s financial contribution to the operation,
maintenance and enhancement of the national airspace system.
8. Autonomous authority granted
to the ATO, to facilitate effective cost control and decision-making.
9. Operators of piston-powered
general aviation aircraft should continue to pay through their fuel tax
10. Any new FAA funding method
established must be fair and based on reasonable indicia of use of the
aviation system, as obtained from a credible, reliable and transparent
FAA cost accounting system.