The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) on Thursday agreed to pay a one-time fee of $447,000 to cover FAA
-supplied air traffic control services for its upcoming AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wis.
In the past, FAA
has included the cost of staffing the air traffic control tower at Wittman Regional Airport into its annual budget. The week-long aviation convention typically brings over 10,000 aircraft to the small airport every year, and EAA is usually issued a special waiver for the show, which requires 87 air traffic controllers this year to manage all of the extra air traffic.
However, this year FAA is facing a $637-million reduction to its operating budget due to sequestration, and has chosen to implement a large portion of
the cuts to its budget for funding staff travel and awards. Thus, the agency is billing EAA the $447,000 to cover travel expenses for controllers that will be working at the show. Part of the bill is also to pay for replacements at the home airports where controllers are traveling from.
Still, EAA Chairman Jack Pelton feels that his organization was given short notice of the bill and that the general aviation (GA) community is being "held hostage" by FAA.
"Let me be clear, we have consistently regarded the FAA's move as holding AirVenture and GA hostage this year," Pelton said in a statement. "As far as we're concerned, this isn't over. We entered this agreement only because there was no other realistic choice to preserve aviation's largest annual gathering."
The air show will be held as scheduled, July 29-Aug. 4.
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