There’s been a lot of discussion about airport funding in recent weeks, given the squeeze on the economy. Small airports need upgrades and repairs to remain operational. Airport fuel taxes continue to fund a large part but they also benefit from federal funding.
Despite the valiant efforts of AOPA and others, to most people general aviation is the corporate high roller in their Gulfstream or possibly the rich adrenaline junkie. There are only 22 major airports in the country which the majority of travelers use. Why should tax dollars be used for smaller airports? Everyone who travels should recognize that to prevent further scheduling problems at the large airports, we need to support the landing facilities across the country that handle the corporate, law enforcement, small business, flight schools, fire fighting, air ambulance, freight haulers, so that these aircraft don’t use the large airports. All of the airport uses other than commercial passenger are still important to a strong economy. If small airports and ATC are funded by direct user fees, these industries will shrink or collapse altogether. I believe the funding system that has been working for decades can continue to work.
General Aviation includes crop dusters, overnight freight and business support. It’s the way most pilots get training. Forestry, search and rescue, firefighting, energy, and construction all depend on it. That’s why there’s over 5,300 general aviation airports in the U.S. in addition to the 600 that support scheduled flights. There’s at least 10,000 more private use landing areas and helipads.
Just as trucks place a greater strain on the national highway system, paying higher taxes and fees than family cars, airlines must carry a greater portion of the financial burden for the air traffic control system. You may never drive to the tens of thousands of small communities served by our national highway system, and you might never visit thousands of small airports that make up our aviation system. A road system that serves only 22 cites wouldn’t work. Similarly, when roads and airports connect thousands of cities,we all pay a share for their maintenance.
Of course we could revert to fees with $4,400 per flight plan with an advance 24 hour requirement similar to some countries. But then, the only ones who will fly will be the rich and famous.