OSHKOSH - Roughly 70,000 people go through the gates at EAA's annual AirVenture fly-in convention each day. And officials say the cost could be passed on to those people.
With more than 20,000 takeoffs and landings over a 10-day period each summer, the Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh becomes the busiest airport in the world during AirVenture.
Each year, traffic controllers from across the country apply to be the 70 or so guides for the skies; their cost of doing business funded through aviation fuel taxes. But apparently, not this year.
A statement from the FAA says:
"In light of sequestration, the FAA and EAA are having discussions about EAA reimbursement of the FAA's incremental costs for supporting AirVenture in Oshkosh."
EAA says it will have to spend almost $500,000 this summer during Air Venture to have an operating control tower.
"We think that's patently unfair because aviation, general aviation already pays for air traffic services through the fuel tax that they pay on every single gallon of fuel that they buy," explained Dick Knapinski, EAA spokesman.
Knapinski says the organization was made aware of the bill during the AirVenture planning process in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago.
"So, right now, the FAA is playing some games with its budget and we're not happy about it and neither is the U.S. Senate."
Lawmakers say the FAA wants EAA to cover travel expenses, lodging and overtime for about 70 air traffic controllers.
Knapinski says tower services will not be impacted for the upcoming AirVenture if EAA has to foot the bill; and he says legislators are working to change that."
Wisconsin Sens. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, and Ron Johnson, a Republican, are currently circulating a letter, urging the FAA to change its stance.
"This comes out of the blue and we think that is not fair and, in addition, that Congress has to authorize any additional fees," said Baldwin in a phone interview with FOX 11.
U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-6th District, also circulated a letter in the House. Petri says the FAA is overstepping its bounds, especially after it was given discretion to adjust its budget.
"Them having been given leeway, explicitly by a vote of the House, Senate, signed by the President of the United States, seems to me that they should stop making life more difficult."
It costs EAA about $6.5 million to put on AirVenture each year.
While he wouldn't be specific, Knapinski says if a deal can't deal reached, visitors, exhibitors and campers may have to pay more to attend the fly-in.
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