The FAA is raising the fees it charges flights that use air traffic services but neither take off or land in the United States. AOPA continues to maintain that U.S.-registered general aviation aircraft should be exempt from the levies.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, the fees the FAA charges to recover some of the cost of providing the services will be raised in three annual increments. Also going up, according to the rule published Nov. 29, is the minimum billing threshold amount, from $250 to $400, in response to comments submitted by AOPA. The association also noted that raising the minimum charge would provide relief for many casual U.S. fliers visiting the Caribbean.
“Many general aviation pilots fly in the Caribbean. If they make a fuel stop en route to their final destination and then proceed under IFR or VFR using FAA-provided air traffic services, as is the case in many parts of the Caribbean, they become subject to an overflight fee,” said Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic. “It was not the intention of Congress to impact U.S. general aviation, and AOPA believes it is a legitimate safety concern for the FAA to continue to charge these pilots for FAA-provided air traffic services.”
The FAA took the position in its final rule that Congress did not differentiate between GA and commercial aviation when it comes to paying the fees, and noted generally that the increases will bring the agency closer to “full cost recovery” for the services. The higher fees will “provide greater incentives” for users to “economize” on using U.S.-controlled airspace and services, “thus increasing the efficient allocation of resources,” the agency said.
AOPA submitted two letters of comments during consideration of the rule that was proposed in August 2015 to update fee rates most recently set in 2011, noting that floor debate on the original legislation in Congress focused on commercial air carriers, making lawmakers intentions’ known.
“It is clear that Congress intended U.S. general aviation to be exempted from the overflight fees. AOPA contends that to expand this rule, or by its effect, to include U.S.-registered general aviation aircraft would be beyond the scope of the authority for this rulemaking,” AOPA said in comments submitted in October 2015 on the fee structure.