October 17, 2013 - The delays caused by the federal budget standoff have caused a ripple effect on EAA's petition to the U.S. 7th District Court of Appeals, regarding the FAA's assessment of air traffic control fees at last summer's AirVenture and those for future years. Those delays mean that, while work on the court petition continues, EAA will also continue to explore all options to have a solution in place well before AirVenture 2014.
EAA filed its petition in early July, asserting that the $448,000 levied by the FAA to provide ATC services at AirVenture 2013 was unjustified and should be refunded. EAA paid the fee under protest to ensure that AirVenture would have full air traffic services, prior to filing the petition for judicial review. Before the Court of Appeals can rule on this issue, it will first determine whether to accept factual materials provided by EAA to educate the court on EAA, AirVenture, and the services historically provided by the FAA. The record submitted by the FAA did not include any of that material. Full briefs on EAA's and the FAA's legal arguments will follow that decision on the contents of the record before the court.
Several other major general aviation organizations have expressed interest in filing amicus curiae ("friend of the court") briefs in support of EAA's petition. GA groups are concerned that this summer's FAA move would set a precedent that allows the FAA, and any federal agency, to charge unannounced fees of any kind without congressional approval or any public comment period. The FAA's unilateral imposition of fees for ATC services at individual aviation events also threatens the GA community's progress in fighting back user fees.
"Our contention remains the same as it has since the FAA first surprised us with these Oshkosh fees in May," said Jack Pelton, EAA chairman of the board. "We are gratified by the enormous support we have received for our court petition since we filed it in July."
Pelton added that while work on the court petition continues, EAA is reviewing its options for air traffic services at AirVenture 2014 on July 28-August 3. Among the major unknowns is the state of FAA funding for 2014 and beyond.
"Let me be clear on this: We will hold AirVenture 2014 as scheduled and welcome EAA members and the aviation community to Oshkosh," he said. "It's important to study all air traffic options now while the court petition continues, to ensure we will be prepared for any FAA action and avoid unpleasant surprises in the future."