More fees to fly: State considers launching aircraft registration database

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A new proposal from the state is considering a mandate requiring all Alaskan based planes to register and pay a fee to do so.

The Department of Transportation currently operates 240 rural airports across the state. "The airports are simply underfunded. We don't have enough money," transportation planner, Richard Sewell said.

With more than 80 percent of Alaskan communities located off the road system, flight is an essential way of life — but it's not cheap.

"We're upside down about $30 million and revenue is decreasing over the last few years, and so the FAA requires us to run airports as much as possible in a self-sustaining way," Sewell said.

Funding for maintenance and operations for DOT is down more than 25 percent in the past three years, according to Sewell.

The annual registration requirement could generate additional revenue for the state. Each private plane would pay $150, commercial planes would register for $250.

The DOT estimates this would bring in an additional $1.4 million each year.

"It all adds up and that's the problem," said Rick Reuss, a flight instructor with Arctic Flyers.

Reuss says the additional tax on top of the already high cost to fly will keep some Alaskans from ever taking off.

"It's just not a good idea for the flight instruction schools because we'll have to transfer that to the students. That'll make flying more costly and they're already looking for airline pilots," he said. "They can't find those airline pilots and most people won't be able to afford the increase."

Also in the mix? A bill currently sitting with the finance committee to triple the taxes on motor fuel by 2019.

The DOT says money from the aviation tax would be solely used on state operated airports.

Reuss says this could cripple pilots flying in and out of rural Alaska. "Out in the village the price of fuel is sky high-- it's even more, in some places twice as much so, it's going to affect everything we do."

Nothing's official yet, while the DOT looks for a way to fly out of the red, many pilots hope the state doesn't decide to tax their takeoff.

To see how to provide public testimony on the proposalclick here.

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