Gearing Up

USPA’s Airport Access and Defense Fund started in 1991 with the primary purpose of helping DZs fight governmental decisions that unfairly or illegally interfere with or negate skydiving operations on airports. As it has been from the start, one condition of using the fund is that winning the battle would set national precedent so that other DZs and skydiving in general derive future benefit. The AAD Fund is entirely dependent on donations from skydivers, who give about $20,000 annually. The fund has now grown to just over $344,000. 

Over the years, the use of the AAD Fund evolved beyond helping just local DZs with specific problems and began addressing state and national issues that more broadly affect skydiving. USPA used the fund to fight the Internal Revenue Service after it ruled that jump plane operators must collect the same 10 percent passenger ticket tax collected by the airlines. USPA got that rule overturned, saving skydivers money. Later, USPA used the fund to research and craft a legal argument that the federal government preempts state and local transaction taxes on DZ skydiving revenues. That effort found favor with and the support of the U.S. Department of Transportation, which resulted in several states ending amusement taxes they applied to DZs. In some cases, DZs received large refunds of state taxes paid in violation of federal law. Again, the result kept the cost of skydiving lower than if states continued their illegal taxes.

More recently—this summer—USPA’s board of directors approved an allocation from the fund to assist efforts by all of general aviation to fight the concept of air-traffic-control privatization. Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation Committee approved a bill that would end air-traffic control as a government entity and service and create a new private corporation to handle it. USPA and more than 150 general aviation organizations banded together to oppose the concept on the very real fear that a corporation would begin making airspace and procedure decisions that would benefit the largest user—the airlines—over general aviation interests, including skydiving. The GA groups plus small-town mayors, airport managers and others who want to preserve general aviation’s access to the ATC system formed the Alliance for Aviation Across America, which immediately began producing arguments and an ad campaign to influence members of Congress.

In a show of strong support for the cause and to reinforce that skydivers are an integral part of general aviation, USPA used the AAD Fund to contribute $20,000 to the Alliance for the fight against ATC privatization. In a subsequent conference call of 100-plus GA groups, the presidents of both the National Business Aviation Association and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association profusely thanked USPA, not only for the contribution, but also for the member action calls and other efforts USPA was taking to make air-traffic control remain with the Federal Aviation Administration. At this writing, the ATC bill is still in play. Thank you to those members who reacted to USPA’s action calls and contacted your representative to urge their vote against HR 2997. We expect to defeat the bill. Meanwhile, we can use your help to replenish the AAD Fund and have it ready for another fight. You can log on to uspa.org/donations to contribute to it (or any of the other member-supported USPA funds). As always, we deeply appreciate those who support our programs. 

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