Obama's Budget Gets a 'Golf Clap' from GA Groups

No user fees, increased spending for NextGen and security for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) are the good news. But President Obama's proposed federal budget says nothing about assistance for GA operators when it comes to the cost of equipping their aircraft for the upcoming revamped air traffic system.

Overall, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) are pleased with the funding allocations proposed under the budget, albeit their initial public statements both specified that their optimism was based on a first look at the complex budget. But AOPA President Craig Fuller said, "The President has recognized the need to modernize our aviation system while maintaining critical infrastructure — all funded by a tried-and-true system of excise taxes and general fund contributions."

NBAA President Ed Bolen said, "The president's FY2012 budget reflects an understanding of the value and priorities of business aviation. We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to keep America's aviation system the safest, largest and most efficient in the world."

The 2012 budget allocates $1.24 billion for NextGen, $370 million more than what was budgeted for 2010. Though funding for the AIP has been reduced to $2.4 billion from $3.5 billion, the budget specifies that the reductions come from larger hub airports (which have alternative options, such as raising passenger facility charges or municipal bonds, for raising money), and preserving federal funding for smaller airports. On the issue of federal assistance for equipping aircraft with NextGen-compatible cockpit avionics, the federal plan calls for a National Infrastructure Bank to guarantee low-interest loans for airlines to cover the cost of new equipment, but no mention was made of such an arrangement for GA operators.