Corporate Jets 16 Percent Of Aviation Systems' Costs, Pay Only 3 Percent

As the debate continues to slowly boil over who will pay for the post of upgrading our nation’s aged aviation infrastructure, the FAA is drawing attention to how corporate jets pay disproportionately lower taxes compared to commercial jets.

This sexy graph, referenced by departing FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey (her next job is as CEO of an aerospace lobbying group) in her July 12, 2007 testimony before the Senate Committee on Finance, on Financing the Next Generation Air Transportation System, shows how an airline’s b767 pays $3,600 in taxes, while a corporate Gulfrstream pays $300. Both cost the FAA the same amount.

To be fair, though, the B767 has the benefit of being able to levy taxes from all of its passengers, while the Gulfstream only has personal golden caviar spigots at each seat, and pillows stuffed with the hair of 30,000 Vestal Virgins.

Statement of Marion C. Blakey, Administrator [FAA via Washington Post]


Edit Your Comment

  1. shiwsup says:

    Eh. It costs the IRS more or less to review my taxes (sans audit) but we pay varying amounts.

  2. faust1200 says:

    “To be fair, though, the B767 has the benefit of being able to levy taxes from all of its passengers, while the Gulfstream only has personal golden caviar spigots at each seat, and pillows stuffed with the hair of 30,000 Vestal Virgins.” Yeah I think that’s pretty much it right there. Plus most privately owned corporate jets aren’t turning profits and the airlines always end up getting bailed out by the gov’t anyway.

  3. j-o-h-n says:

    @shiwsup: Lousy analogy, you aren’t paying the IRS for *their* service (mostly).

  4. spinachdip says:

    @shiwsup: A couple of things you seem to be confused about:

    a) You’re not paying the IRS to review your taxes. The IRS is just the agency that processes your return and they don’t actually get to keep all the money you send! Crazy, right?!

    b) The tax you pay to the IRS is an income tax. The FAA tax is a fee for specific services provided by a government agency. That’s not an income tax, believe it or not.

    Doesn’t that just blow your mind?

  5. huadpe says:

    @shiwsup: Yeah, but the FAA tax is a fee for service sort of a thing. You can avoid it entirely by not flying, but since there needs to be a traffic cop up there, those who fly need to pay this tax. They’re asking for what seems to be a pretty simple fix of paying per plane instead of per person, since all planes cost the same, regardless of size. Since there is finally decent price competition in the US domestic market (See Southwest and Jet Blue), a price drop of $1000 per plane on taxes for large jets might get a $5 reduction in fares.

    As far as the income tax, that’s just the government declaring that you can’t really own your salary.

  6. quantum-shaman says:

    “Aged aviation infrastructure”? What’s wrong with it? Oh wait, Mr. FAA bureaucrat said: “Unless we transform it with state-of-the-art technology and provide a stable revenue stream to pay for it America will be unable to handle the growth that is headed our way.” What a crock! I KNEW they were shilling for money. And I’ll bet the guy personally invests in the companies he’s got a finger on to install this so-called state-of-the-art technology. Granted that equipment wears out and certain improvements will always be needed, but what the FAA really needs to get is a handle on their personnel issues and system management, not replacing everything out there with the latest and greatest. You can have glass cockpits and Cat-III ILS in everything down to the last Cessna or whatever else you want, but that will *never* solve the problem of poor and inefficient traffic control (i.e., flying in a holding pattern over Detroit until you run out of gas).

  7. randalotto says:

    When flying lately, I’ve seen several video “commercials” playing in the airports highlighting this exact point.

    It’s cheesy hand-drawn animation with “rich” planes cutting in front of the poor passengers, who are stuck waiting on the runway. At the end, they try to convince you that we should be taxing private jets more… I’ve seen these commercials going back at least 3 months.

  8. quantum-shaman says:

    The FAA doesn’t need state-of-the-art equipment as much as it needs to get a handle on its personnel issues and how to better manage the traffic it already has. Glass cockpits and Category III ILS isn’t going to help anybody while they’ve got you circling in a holding pattern over Detroit until you run out of gas, or keep you sitting on the ramp for 6 hours and oh gosh, you can’t go back to the gate because THEN you would have to wait even longer to get back in the queue.

  9. quantum-shaman says:

    ^^oops! sorry about the superfluous post.. i thought i lost the first one.

  10. balthisar says:

    Sounds like class jealousy to me. This is really petty in the grand scheme of things.

  11. @balthisar: Oh suuuure. I know most economists just say “a 13% discrepancy. Fuck it. Don’t wake me up unless it’s 45%”.

  12. Starrionx says:

    What the FAA really wants to do is switch from being funded by the General fund and the aviation gas tax TO self-funding by fees on commercial and general aviation. That would allow them to do what they want without having to listen to Congress.
    The Air Transport Association is pushing this because this self-funded FAA would be largely beholden to them. They could ratchet up the costs on general aviation (jets and the private single engine pilots like me) to make it uneconomical to fly anything other than the airlines. What the ATA fears is that those who have the means to afford either a whole Jet or a fractional ownership of one will flee the first-class seats that make the airlines profitable.
    This portrayal of the “poor airline passenger” getting delayed by the rich jetting about in private gulfstreams is no different (or less of a lie) than the old saw about “the rich not paying their fair-share” of taxes. The same AMT that the middle class will soon be paying.

  13. escargot says:

    I fly small single-engine propeller planes. If I fly into New York, I arguably cost the FAA the same as as a 747, since the controller has to fit me into the traffic pattern and direct me to the airport. Are you saying I should have to pay $3600 for the privilege? And if not, how is the Gulfstream significantly different from my little Cessna?

  14. skinny2 says:

    Well, the system really needs to go GPS based. That will help, and anyone against FAA updating their systems hasn’t been in a control tower and looked at the old junk navigating these planes.

    Now how to pay for it….this entire attack on the corporate planes was started by the ATA (that would be the Airline Transportation Assoc, i.e. the airlines). The FAA picked up and ran with it as well because it looks good and might give them a way to raise more money (or charge the airlines less…..huh?). Corporate Jet traffic is minute compared to airline traffic. Even very busy corporate jets don’t log anywhere near the hours of an airliner, so I don’t buy the fact that corporate jets have diddly to do with our flight problems.

    According to the FAA’s own 2006 Data, at the ten busiest airports in the U.S., small planes (that includes anything that’s not an airliner) make up less than 4% of traffic.

  15. ancientsociety says:

    If you use the same infrastructure and it costs the gov’t (which, essentially means it costs taxpayers) the same, then you should pay the same amount.

    Class or wealth has nothing to do with it.

  16. enm4r says:

    Think about taxis, and how you pay a surcharge per extra person. So I could hop in a taxi, ride it alone for a couple blocks and pay $5. But if I hopped in with 3 friends, we’d pay $11 ($2 per additional person). The cost of the ride more than doubled for us, but both rides actually cost the taxi the same amount.

    I always hated this practice, not sure why I’m finding it hard to hate the FAA for doing the same thing.

  17. BK88 says:

    Airlines are the cause of delays becuase of OVERSCHEDULING HUB airports. Of the top 20 airports, less than 3% is corporate traffic. So that means that the high density airspace around a metroplex was created to protect airline traffic.

    If you care to be educated on the issue, read these links on how the airlines are trying to kill general aviation.




    And the AOPA scorecard (easy to read chart) on how the funding proposals go. [] (PDF)

    I was a big Bush fan, but you can’t kill GA by taxing them out of business as happened in Europe.


  18. JKinNYC says:

    @enm4r: Don’t have that problem in NY. But then, our far was probably $11 no matter how many folks :)

  19. crnk says:

    Great, so know we have hard figured that show some people taking advantage of what the government gives them more than other people do.
    Isn’t that how the entire system works? Doesn’t someone always get disproportionate services?

    I’m glad I fly small planes–it lets me use this gigantic national infrastructure of airports that we’ve all paid for building.

  20. Starrionx says:

    The problem isn’t that the FAA lacks funding, the problem is that the FAA doesn’t like drawing from the general Fund and reporting to Congress. They would rather have their own funding stream. The Airlines would like that too, since the FAA would then be largely beholden to them.

  21. jeffeb3 says:

    isn’t 3,600 dollars like a miniscule amount of money for the airlines? And $300 for John travolta? That’s a tip to that guy. Just double the costs of all those fees, problem solved.

  22. quantum-shaman says:

    @ancientsociety: That’s overly simplistic, isn’t it? If we are talking about the “taxes” that the FAA collects on flights, why should a lone business person flying a single engine prop plane pay the same taxes as a 757? You just can’t just parcel out the cost of aviation “infrastructure” (in terms of towers, tarmacs and flight control centers) on an individual user, fixed basis. Even commercial truckers pay taxes and live under all sorts of regulations that private drivers never have to worry about. The FAA is there to provide a service, not collect tolls or disproportinately burden the rest of us who aren’t flying heavies commercially.

    @BK88: I would like to know who comes up with these “hubs”. Surely they can be rearranged. Also I haven’t looked at the AOPA site in a while but I’m a little shocked at the idea of the airline industry trying to kill general aviation. Why would they?? I could certainly see the motivation for that, though, with the biz jets!

  23. gibsonic says:

    while we are at it, can we get a flat federal income tax %?…you know. just to be fair. Everyone pays 10% or something.

    unfortunately, the way our country is funded (or in-debted, i should say) this would only make us less broke by not taxing wealthier people more.

    Even though they can afford more, it still doesn’t make it any less fair.

  24. B says:

    @enm4r: Technically, it costs more for the taxi to transport your friends, assuming they weigh more than zero.

  25. JohnMc says:

    To AncientSociety, Popken, Oooooh Pleeeze!! You first of all trust what a bureaucrat tells you?

    First lets talk about infrastructure costs. The B767 has, in the US, only about 300 airports capable of handling its takeoff/landing needs. That is the busiest airports in the system. The Gulfstream has the opportunity to land at some 1500 airports. So if you want to go to Los Angeles on a B767 you will land at LAX. If you go Gulfstream you can land there or John Wayne, Long Beach, Burbank, or Ontario. So the Gulfstream by picking an alternate airport offloads a burden off of LAX, and most do just that.

    In addition consider the ancillary costs. A B767 requires longer and more heavily constructed runways. Every time a plane gets bigger the runways have to get longer. That kicks in eminent domain for the airport to get the clearances necessary for the longer runways. It requires jetways capable of reaching the doorways. A denser luggage flow requires upgrades to those systems as well. It all just spirals. The smaller jet requires none of that. The same runway that P-51s flew out of Burbank in WWII is the same runway that the Gulfstream will use. Talk about economy of resources.

    Second, slots. There are only so many available slots to takeoff and land as the FAA mandates a time interval between each flight. This is due to vortex forces off the wings. The bigger the plane the bigger the vortex and consequently the longer the slot time. Most of the major airports are at maximum capacity for slot times. In fact they are oversubscribed. It is impossible for all flights for all airlines to take off at 8:15am at airports like JFK, CHI, LAX. There are no such issues at the smaller airports that the Gulfstreams frequent. So again the Gulfstream by using underutilized resources offloads the slots available for use by the major airlines.

    Left Hand, Right Hand. Are you aware Ben that NASA and the FAA are actually advocating a deployment of a system of light jet travel available to everyone? Its a system called SATS (link:[]). Its purpose is to move some travel off the 300 largest airports to 2000 of the less used ones. So I find it funny that on one hand we have some retiring FAA commissioner bitching while on the other hand we have his very organization proposing an expansion of what he opposes. Does he not read his own reports?

    Taxation. Wondered why the taxation is different? Its because it is mandated on a per seat basis. The bigger the airplane the more seats the more tax. That is each passenger pays the same head tax.Isn’t that what you want there Ancient? Everyone pays the same? Well they are.

    Ben I don’t know how to say it, but you have been duped. What the commissioner did not tell you is that general aviation for the most part avoids the larger ATC controlled airports. The cost to the ENTIRE SYSTEM, not just the air traffic system is being overburdened by the airlines, not general aviation.

    Sorry for the length.

  26. JohnMc says:

    I left a nice long post rebutting this but the system rejected it I guess. I would direct eveyone to go Google “NASA SATS”. It’s a NASA-FAA codevelopment. Why would the FAA be doing this? Does not the commissioner read reports?

  27. ltlbbynthn says:

    Jesus Christ, corporations should pay more for everything! They should start contributing to the resources they use rather than being bailed out constantly and paying their CEOs obscene millions. Everyone who flies on a corporate jet has $3000 laying around to blow their noses with.

  28. enm4r says:

    @B: I knew someone would reply with this. I’m not a combustion engine expert, but I’m pretty sure the cost is negligable for 450-500lbs. If it’s not neglitable, it sure as hell isn’t more than $1 total.

  29. Starrionx says:

    @ ltlbbynthn

    This is a bad idea because the “corporate fatcats” are just a scapegoat for the airlines real goals. What they really want is to reduce their own tax burden and shift them onto General aviation. Once they have driven the little guys out of the sky, they can redirect all the dollars that go to maintaining the thousands of public municipal airports to their own 100 or so hubs. This is all about the airlines trying to gain ownership of the FAA

  30. ltlbbynthn says:

    @Starrionx: The infrastructure needs to be updated. Period. We’ll all benefit if planes can fly straight to their destination rather than having to jump around to different radio towers to maintain a signal. That wastes fuel and everybody’s time.

  31. Buran says:

    @balthisar: I don’t think it’s petty. It’s just asking for everyone to pay a fair share.

  32. LionelEHutz says:

    Corporate welfare is getting out of control.

  33. killavanilla says:

    Yet another ruse propogated by those who simply view people with personal airplanes as ‘rich’ and, therefore, evil.
    This is nonsense.
    A plane (non-jet) costs about as much as a fully rigged bass boat and is therefore, not really the rich mans arena only.
    Stop targeting people who earn more money to generate revenue.
    A 747 holds hundreds of passengers, even a loaded up gulfstream can’t handle 1/10th the passengers of a 747.
    So how can the FAA make the argument that a small jet should pay as much as a large jet?
    The taxi analogy used earlier makes the most sense. If 150 pay $3600 to the faa for their flight, why should a flight of 10 do the same?
    This is stupid on the part of the FAA.

  34. Don Roberto says:

    That’s one screwed-up looking Texas border.

  35. basket548 says:

    @enm4r: The reason that you have to pay extra is that both parties (passengers and taxi driver) are taking advantages of economies of scale. Before, your cab ride would have cost you $5. Now, it costs $3.67, because rates were lowered for a group ride. The taxi, on the other hand, is willing to offer you all rides @ $5 per person if you want to travel by yourselves; however, there is a time/opportunity cost to this. Since he theoretically ‘loses’ the other $5 ride, he makes up for it by the extra person surcharge.

    There’s a larger argument to be made here in terms of passengers and jets, but I’m at work and can’t really think about it now.

  36. jamesdenver says:



    Agree 100%. I’m a private pilot like the above poster. I’m not rich and I fly as a part time hobby. Private pilots from tiny Cessnas to Gulfstreams rarely even USE the same same enormous hub airports like LAX, DTW, DFW, etc.

    They simply DON’T EFFECT TRAFFIC into these airports. They use the same departure/arrival procedures into the city, but head to secondary general aviation airports where the local tower filters them in.

    And the pilot and passengers prefer these airports because they’re small, quiet, non-commerical, and have a professional GA environment.


    That’s pathetic. Again, Bill Gates is not “cutting you off” and taking your departure slot. In fact at a mid-size airport like Grand Rapids or Rapid City the controllers probably would give PREFERENCE to a Northwest 737 over a Lear Jet, knowing time is more important to those passengers need to connect in MLPS or wherever.


  37. jamesdenver says:


    Are you joking? Not every “corporate jet” you see is a “corporate jet”. General Aviation carries family and friends to rural areas, doctors and patients on urgent medical trips, college basketball teams, or a bunch of guys just going to Vegas for the weekend.

    With fractional ownership companies like Netjets becoming more and more popular you’ll more “regular folks” flying charter out of GA airports or on small “microjets”.

    It’s no a $50 Southwest ticket, but you shouldn’t picture everyone who steps off of a private plane as Daddy Warbucks


  38. Dibbler says:

    @jamesdenver: Thank you for saying that. Saved me from having to do all that typing… ;)

  39. BK88 says:

    The airlines already use GPS to go straight from airport to airport. Land based navigational aids are used less and less everyday. Almost everyplane has a GPS of some kind onboard. There goes one of the airlines’ arguements,


    Oh yeah, squeeze more airplanes into the sky, that would work great, but they still can only land one airplane on a runway per minute, so all those planes will be in that longer line.


  40. chili_dog says:

    The class envy begins in 3………2………1

  41. reeg2 says:

    @Don Roberto:


  42. Chese says:

    I see these lame posts from the airlines often and find it a joke. Fuel taxes are the fairest way to share the cost. A gulfstream is a totally different aircraft compared to a 767. The gulfstream rarely goes to the same airports and does not even fly at the levels of the 767, it flies higher. Oh and that Gulfstream passenger probably is paying 8 to 9k per hour for that flight.

  43. kimsama says:

    Right on. This is a ploy by the big airlines to kill off general aviation. Why? Because they’re doing such a great job of serving us that we don’t need other options!

    This attempt to tie the taxes into a classist paradigm is to make the cause popular with the middle class and working class, so the airlines can have their support when they lobby congress. Well, I’m not a pilot, nor am I in the financial position to afford a private jet, but I’ll never be on the side of big airlines and against individual pilots.

    Honestly, Ben, this would be tremendous blow to consumers if airlines get their way.

  44. IC18 says:

    Just another way of how CEO’s and Corporate flunkies try to avoid contributing to the rest of society.

  45. urban_ninjya says:

    I have to disagree with all the people saying the FAA doesn’t need better equipment. They do BADLY!!! There was articles not to long ago with a problem of airports under reporting near collisions upon the runway (like one plan landing just seconds after a plane took off on the same runway). And there was those issues with planes being stuck on the tarmac and couldn’t return to unload the passengers for 5+ hours.

    I think there really needs to be an overhaul and more training for contingency scenarios.

  46. brokenboy says:

    I fly small airplanes too, and what people really need to realize is that this plan is asking every VEHICLE that uses the airways to pay the same amount. One person or 1000 on board, same amount. This is the same as saying that the cost to register your $5000 car should be the same as it costs greyhound to register their buses.

    Believe it or not, just like a car, there’s no legal reason you need to talk to the FAA to fly a plane most places in the USA. It’s often safer to do so, but not required. If we make it so that it costs someone $300 just to ask about the weather, how many pilots will do that? The skies, and the ground below it, will become a more dangerous place. The purpose of the FAA is to make the aviation industry safer and more efficient for every single user, not just for those that have thousands to spend.

    On a second point. Actually, airlines do NOT use GPS to get from point to point. Lots of airliners don’t even have GPS units onboard. You can’t just throw a GPS unit in a commercial plane like you can a car.

    Southwest airlines just announced a few months ago that they are going to begin installing GPS in all of their 737’s, but they didn’t have GPS at all before that.

  47. jamesdenver says:


    Neither of those have to do with the equipment. The first is basic situational awareness for controllers and pilots. Ground radar helps, but it’s up to the individual. Even the best equipment doesn’t prevent stupid mistakes. (like the commuter jet using the wrong runway in Kentucky last year)

    The second is cramming thousands of people onto airplanes during bad weather, and allowing many more to land. That’s poor decision making and planning.

  48. Starrionx says:

    None of the pilots are disagreeing that the aviation infrastructure needs to be upgraded. The disagreement is that the FAA and the airlines are arguing that they need a new funding stream to pay for it. Congress, AOPA, and the GA community is saying the current model will be sufficent with some minor modifications.

    What will not change is that the number of runways at the hubs are insufficient for the task but that is the airlines problem of scheduling regional jets when they need to be flying 737’s.

  49. STrRedWolf says:

    The upshot is, if the corporate jet passengers can pay for the hairs of 30,000 Vestal Virgins, they have enough money to throw at the FAA to upgrade the entire system. Besides, R&D into time travel must be costly since the last Vestal Virgin died out at the end of the Roman Empire. :)

  50. olegna says:

    To hell with it. Why won’t the guv-mint get off our backs and stop regulating the skies. If I wanna pull mself up by my bootstraps and have a corproate jet, why should I be punished by those wine-drinking homos in Tax-a-Chusetts??

  51. johnsomething says:

    I love the irony of all the commenters saying “make corporate America pay! Make Daddy Warbucks pay!” when in fact this proposal is specifically designed as corporate welfare for the airlines.

    What will happen if this proposal goes through is that general aviation in the U.S. will die. If you ever wanted to fly a Cessna somewhere, that opportunity will go away. If you wanted to become a GA pilot, forget it. This proposal will reduce your choice as a consumer, not increase it, and will kill an experience that for many is an important part of their lives.

    If you want to do anything other than crowd into your coach seat like a good little sheep, if you want any kind of actual freedom to make choices for yourself rather than have large corporations do it for you, then you should fight this proposal. It’s the worst kind of corporate welfare, and will come at the expense not of Daddy Warbucks (who can afford any fee they throw at him) but at the expense of small plane pilots whose load on the system is miniscule.

  52. JohnMc says:


    I would like to expand on your observation about the airlines. If you were to look at the financial performance of Delta, United, AA, NW and SW what you will note is that SW outperformed all of them quarter per quarter.

    Some will say SW is just smarter. That might be true but one of the ways that SW is smarter is that they don’t depend on the hub and spoke system like their 4 competitors do. The heck you say? Heck yes say I.

    Look the hub and spokers bet on a time-efficiency study back in the 1970’s. They also calculated that they would have fewer facilities to update by doing so. So long as a plane had a seating capacity of 120 and was only at 75% occupancy hub and spoke had a chance. But when the plane now has 250 and is at 99% occupancy the system starts to collapse. The hub and spoke system also has a weak spot — backup. As the airlines started cutting flights and crews and moving to the jumbo planes any single burp in the airlines scheduling cascaded to failure or near failure. That is what we see happening nearly 3 out of 7 days of the week now.

    And SW? Not dependent on hub and spoke they hopscotch across the country in 737’s using less occupied airports. They are only hindered when they have to enter into one of the hub cities to disgorge passengers. SW’s ability to have either the number 1,2, or 3 time of arrival rating quarter to quarter is almost wholly based on that fact. That translates into $$ to the bottom line.

    /off soapbox

  53. randalotto says:

    @jamesdenver: Hey, I’m not the one making that statement – I was just relaying the types of ads they’re playing, in an attempt to win public support.

  54. jamesdenver says:

    Randalotto I know – sorry I was agreeing with you at the absurdity of it: Crowded stuffy airports running videos blaming blaming the miserable situation on GA pilots.

    When I fly my dinky Cessna up to the middle of Wyoming or somewhere to go camping I don’t use Denver Int’l airport. I use a small field in the country, and while I utilize the same ATC controllers en route to keep me clear of other traffic (GA and commercial,) there is NO effect, absolutely NONE, on commercial traffic!

    So yeah, saying GA pilots are somehow impeding your seat in 31A and keeping you at the gate or circling in the sky – well it’s just wrong.

    Also I don’t fly that frequently on my own as I’ve been taking overseas trips as of late – but I can honestly say the General Aviation environment is F-ing awesome. It’s great to drive up to a small airport, check your plane out, go over weather with some coffee, and just go and see the country from a few thousand feet up. In small airports you can chat with other professional pilots and students – all sharing stories and info – and even the grizzled vets have “been there” and are happy to chat with newbies.

    It’s a great feeling of accomplishment and pride, and it keeps your mind sharp and gives you good decision making skills. And I love the fact that ATC treats me with the same respect as a 747 in the same area.

    I think it is a personal freedom, and I don’t want the cost to raise to where the average laymen, (like me, who worked part time jobs to GET my certificate) can’t afford it.


  55. chili_dog says:

    @JohnMc: “LESS OCCUPIED AIRPORTS” Not really. Sure, PVD and DAL are small, but what about LAX or PHX or MCO or BWI among many more. But in the long run, what does it really matter because this very post here gives reality to the fact that Southwest is THE American airline.

  56. killavanilla says:

    Some people don’t know that GA is a concept dating back to the days when aviation in this country was supposed to develop into something the ‘anyman’ could do.
    There were hundreds of small, GA airports with plenty of space for people to fly their small craft. Then the FAA and local municipalities began shutting them down, one by one. The industry was moving that way until the big airlines came along and actively destroyed the GA infrastructure.
    Now we have terrible airlines, everybody is running late or canceling flights, and few people fly on their own anymore. Check out the documentary “One-Six-Right”. It explains it a lot better than I can.
    GA planes use fewer resources and tend to avoid major airports altogether.
    This is an attack on the ‘rich’, or at least the perceived rich.

  57. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @quantum-shaman: “What’s wrong with it?” Didn’t LAX’s entire computer system crash last week?

    I’m not saying everybody has to upgrade to the latest and greatest. In fact, I’d rather they didn’t, considering the problems inherent in brand-new technology, but we could at least bring them up to the early 2000s.

  58. notallcompaniesarebad says:

    @killavanilla: “This is an attack on the ‘rich’, or at least the perceived rich.”

    There are way too many attacks on the rich, if you ask me. Unlike this post, most are unwarranted. This is stupidity of the richest sort. If you require $X of services from the government that are not part of every day life (police, fire, military protection, etc), you should have to pay for it. There is no social benefit to having corporate jets in the air and therefore we shouldn’t be subsidizing them (unlike the social benefit of, say, Yellowstone, which I am all for subsidizing).

  59. @quantum-shaman: I don’t think you really know what you’re talking about; the main chokepoint for air traffic is on the ground because of antiquated airports with poor sightlines, lots of gates, and the lack of ground traffic management systems.

    The second biggest chokepoint is in the sky, and yes, newer systems can help here, as well. Unfortunately, there is a finite amount of sky, but the airlines have seen fit to operate smaller jets more frequently to increase sales appeal and load factors rather than operating fewer flights on larger jets for more efficiency.

    Everybody shares blame here, but the traffic problem is a real one, and newer ATC systems can help alleviate today’s crowded skies.

  60. Buran says:

    @notallcompaniesarebad: There are things that are pure joy that we should all have the opportunity to do. Having the chance to fly is one of them.

    And not like today’s “sit down, shut up, and don’t even think about getting up to use the bathroom” flying.

  61. mconfoy says:

    Things can be made fairer under the next administration since we know it will be a Democratic adminstration.

  62. JustAGuy2 says:


    Yes, I am saying you should have to pay the same as the 767. While there are some differences (i.e. need more space behind the 767 due to wake turbulance, etc.), basically, the fundamental unit of ATC is the airplane, and the service should be funded that way.

  63. Javert says:

    The car / bus analogy fails because there is not a time when you are guided in and have to use a space of road while no one else can use it. The point that many people seem to be missing is that it requires the same amount of effort to land a 767 as it takes to land a small, private jet. Maybe they should not pay the exact same fee to land as the the large plane can spread the costs out a bit more but then again, landing a plane with 6 passengers is a total waste of resources, especially at a busy airport. The goal should be to move people efficiently. As one poster noted about medflights, etc. There would have to be exceptions. I wonder what the stats are at some of the busier airports if you remove flights with less than 20 people? Would this not remove some of the pressure on the system? In all, the solution is not to charge the exact same fee but c’mon, to charge per seat is a complete waste of money from the view of the airtraffic control system.

  64. notallcompaniesarebad says:

    @Buran:”There are things that are pure joy that we should all have the opportunity to do. Having the chance to fly is one of them.”
    I’m not so sure about that. Nevertheless, I don’t think the real problem here is recreational flying (which probably doesn’t occur all that often in highly trafficked areas). The real problem is the increased burden small private aircraft place on our infrastructure in areas with high traffic. Lets model it after “congestion pricing.” If you are forcing the FAA to increase its costs, you should have to compensate them for that. A piper cub in the middle of Iowa likely *is* cheaper for the FAA than yet another G5 landing at Teterboro.

  65. killavanilla says:

    Unfortunately, I disagree with you.
    First of all, it DOES NOT cost the FAA the same to handle small corporate jets. It costs them far less.
    Small craft don’t use major airports, where the majority of costs stem from.
    But more importantly, you seem to be missing the point.
    Large jets carry hundreds of passengers. Each passenger pays a small fee earmarked for FAA fees.
    The same is true for corporate jets.
    And there IS a social benefit – corporate jets carry executives in smaller, private planes. Because of this, there are seats available that wouldn’t be if the corporations bought big chunks. It would throw another wrench into the whole process. Flying 10 executives across the country and back would mean 10 less seats on your commercial flights. What’s more, the airlines would begin to raise prices as the demand for seats would go up. Less seats become available, airlines start blocking off seats for corporate execs, and prices rise.
    Besides, the corporate jets allow execs to move quickly and without delay to where they need to go.
    Thus enabling them to do business more efficiently.
    Efficient business leads to more profit. More profit leads to more tax revenue and better yield on investments to investors.
    So there is a real benefit, though you might choose not to accept it.
    It’s like a tollway – large busses full of people pay more than small cars do. Should ALL vehicles pay the same amount for services? Should I pay $300 an oil change like Porsche owners do?
    Should I pay the same tax on my $20,000 car as my dad does on his $70,000 car?
    The argument is a bit silly and is most definitely aimed exclusively at the ‘perceived’ rich.
    They aren’t JUST talking about corporate jets either, they are talking about every airplane. So Bob spends his money and time learning to fly a plane, and scratches together enough money for a loaded bass boat rig or a small, single engine plane. He chooses plane. Why should he have to pay the same to use resources as a plane with 180 people on it?

  66. flywithsteve says:

    Consumerist, this is the one post I haven’t liked since reading. Shame on you. This presents only one heavily-biased side of this argument.

    As an airline pilot I can tell you that this is a blatant attempt by airlines to gain control of the FAA and offload taxes in an unfair way. The solution to air congestion is not changing to a new tax system – satellites and more concrete will certainly help. But this proposal to create User Fees is pure corporate greed on the part of the airlines.

    Yes – you and I as taxpayers, along with the airlines’ ticket tax pay for the FAA and our ATC system. We pay these taxes because it’s in everyone’s best interest for planes to not fall out of the sky, and to keep our ATC system… ie OUR SAFETY *OUT* of corporate control.

    ASK ANYONE IN THE BUSINESS – If it is a decision between MONEY or SAFETY – MONEY ALWAYS WINS. So it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep ATC an INHERENTLY GOVERNMENTAL FUNCTION… this is how we’ve maintained the safest ATC system in the world. I personally don’t want my safety auctioned off to the lowest bidder, do you?

    For anyone that thinks that this “new tax system” is the way to go – please tell me how you’d feel about paying a yearly fee to use any public roads, and were charged $5 every time you used a stop sign and obeying a speed limit sign.

  67. JustAGuy2 says:


    “Should I pay the same tax on my $20,000 car as my dad does on his $70,000 car?”

    No, but you’ll pay the same toll when you drive on a toll road, since you’re each contributing the same to congestion.

    Even in the “bus vs. car” example you give, your example doesn’t support the argument. Buses do pay more for toll roads, mainly b/c they’re heavy and cause more damage. A bus with 60 people in it doesn’t pay 60x what a car with one person in it does, though. By the same token, a car with one person pays the same as a car with 4 people.

    Again, the fundamental unit here is a plane, and the system (particularly landing charges) should be priced like that.

  68. JustAGuy2 says:


    I’d be very happy to pay a yearly fee to use public roads, but it should be appropriately priced. Vehicle license fees should be based on miles travelled, with a modest adjustment for weight of the vehicle (heavier cars cause more roadway damage, albeit have no congestion impact). Gas taxes get you part of the way, but they don’t solve congestion, since a Prius and a Hummer take up the same space on the roadway (or very very close).

    ATC fees should be borne by those who use ATC services. Period.

  69. flywithsteve says:

    @Justaguy2: Ok, but would you be ok with your road-usage and gas taxes being set arbitrarily by let’s say, trucking companies. That’s essentially what’s happening here to ATC.

    And ATC fees are borne by those who use ATC services… we all do. Just like we all pay for highways and their safety. Without travel by roads or air, we wouldn’t have the economy we do.

  70. JustAGuy2 says:


    If those fees were set in a reasonable way, where the truckers pay a modest premium per mile to reflect the road damage they do, then yes, that would be fine.

    At the end of the day, while satellites and more concrete will help, we’ll only start resolving some of the air traffic congestion problems we have if we align charges with impact. Why don’t we auction off landing slots at major airports to the highest bidder, and set the # of slots available to match the airport’s capacity. If someone thinks it’s worth outbidding a United 747 for a 7PM Thursday evening takeoff slot from JFK, go ahead.

  71. n301dp says:

    @bk88: Commercial aircraft rarely use “GPS direct” routing. As stated before, most airliners don’t have GPS onboard, and those that do have much better systems (FMS) for navigation.

  72. OwenCatherwood says:

    Just like the FAA, the ATA is out to remove its source of employees. Airline pilots don’t just pop up; they start out by learning to fly in smaller aircraft, building up to where they fly business jets while waiting for an airline job (or find biz jets to be better paying and don’t bother with the airlines), which the ATA now want to charge more. It already costs large sums of money to build up the flight time to get an ATP rating, without being taxed for learning to fly for the airlines. Of course, the ATA doesn’t quite seem to get this fact, and if their plan goes through, expect more Northwest Airlines-like delays in the future due to lack of pilots.

  73. BK88 says:

    FMS systems with dual DME updating and IRUs are being replaced with
    FMS’s with GPS’s and IRU’s. The position updates and ability to fly
    “direct” are the same on FMS’s with GPS installed or not, its called
    Area Navigation.

    And to finish the point, most airliners fly the “preferred routing” or
    the shortest route between the end of the SID(DP) and the begining of
    the STAR.

    Due to limited runway space, airliners are put in line hundreds of
    miles from their destination for the runway. You should really visit a
    center or TRACON and ask to see the Traffic Management Unit. You will
    learn a lot there about how they really fly.


    (PS Have fun with your C172N in Nevada)

  74. n301dp says:

    The 172 in question was my first solo airplane back in the day ;-). I’ve moved on quite far since then :-D.

    My main point was that while most airlines do use preferred routing, it is almost never GPS direct. When I was in CRJ groundschool we very rarely used the GPS function on the FMS since most airline routings use intersections and SIDs/STARS.

    I’ve since moved on to a position in GA where GPS direct is a feasible and desirable option, except on the East Coast.