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Brad’s Testimony Before U.S. Congress – Aviation User Fees

I recently had the honor of testifying before the U.S. Congress Committee on Small Business regarding aviation user fees.  The hearing was entitled, User Fees in the Aviation Industry: Turbulence Ahead, and took place on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 in Washington, DC.  This hearing was initiated by Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO), who is Chairman of the committee.  The purpose of this hearing was to discuss the impact on small businesses of an additional $100 per flight fee proposed by the Obama administration.  I was speaking to the committee on behalf of the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).

My testimony focused on the important role general aviation has played to help build my business, increase our sales despite a sluggish economy, and hire additional employees.  I own and operate a Turbo Cirrus SR22 Aircraft which I can honestly say is one of my absolute best employees.  It allows myself and my staff members to travel quickly, safely and efficiently to customer locations, industry events and to manufacturing partner facilities.  I’ve flown my Cirrus to 49 states in pursuit of new business and to nurture and grow existing relationships successfully.  We simply could not do what we do without our airplane.

The current system of taxation is based upon fuel consumption, ie: each gallon of fuel purchased has a federal excise tax included, which congress has the ability to adjust if necessary.  This is a straightforward taxation method (perhaps the most simple and effective in our government), wherein those who fly more tend to burn more fuel and therefore pay more taxes.  I fly a lot, a whole lot.  I fly far (nationwide), I burn a lot of fuel, and I pay a lot more taxes than an individual who’s making small regional flights burning less fuel.  That makes sense – I’m going further distances and using more services, therefore I should be paying more into the system and am happy to do so.  The system works, it’s not broken, so this feels very much like a solution looking for a problem to solve.

The Obama administration has proposed that each flight should be charged an additional $100 user fee on top of the current excise fuel tax.  This makes no sense to me as there’s no direct correlation between usage and the proposed new taxation method.  There’s been a position among some proponents that this is “fair” because everyone pays the same additional equal amount.  Each aircraft paying an equal amount however is not “fair”.  The aviation infrastructure was built for the commercial airlines, not for the general aviation sector.  For instance, when I landed my Cirrus at Washington’s Dulles International Airport to attend this hearing, I landed on an 11,500 foot runway that was 150 feet wide and several feet deep of concrete.  This runway wasn’t built for my Cirrus or many other general aviation planes, it was built to handle heavy airliners.  I needed only a fraction of the available runway (length, width and depth) to land safely.  Saying that the cost of that runway (that’s part of our aviation infrastructure) should be split “fairly” and “equally” between both of us would be like going out to dinner and ordering a salad while your friend gets a five course meal then suggests it’s “fair” and “equal” to split the check down the middle.  It just doesn’t make sense.

In addition to the inequality I demonstrated above, another important factor to recognize is the massive infrastructure that would need to be put into place in the government to administer and collect from a user fee based system.  We’d effectively create a whole new bureaucracy, aptly referred to by many in the aviation industry to be named the SKY-R-S.  This new administration could raise fees (taxes) at any time without congressional approval which is a very dangerous proposition.  Given the vast amount of resources and personnel needed for such a program, it’s highly probably an increase in fees would be necessary just to cover this additional overhead.

Equally troublesome is the thought of having to dedicate additional resources and manpower within my own small business for the accounting function of auditing, paying, and handling these fees.  This money would add expense (beyond the flat $100 fee) to our operations which could better be spent growing our business and helping our customers grow their businesses. There is no need to add this additional burden to businesses who are already needing to be laser focused on efficiencies to compete effectively.

I invite you to watch the video presentation of the full hearing for a better understanding of this issue and all of the various points presented.  I was truly honored to be among an esteemed panel of individuals, most notably Martha King of King Schools, who did a phenomenal job expressing her position on behalf of the NBAA.  (As a side note, both John and Martha King are incredibly warm and wonderful people.  I can’t express how much I enjoyed getting to know them and was honored to testify along with Martha).  As you watch the video during the question and answer period, you may notice there was a brief tense moment between myself and the ranking Congresswoman on the committee.  Due to the phrasing of her question, I simply could not allow myself to advocate writing a “blank check” proclaiming that we should should raise aviation taxes.  I feel this is a more complex issue (including the numerous reasons I stated above) and that it’s necessary to look into the details and implications further.  I was clear in my answer however that if congress votes to increase aviation taxes, I would prefer for it to be done in the form of the existing excise fuel tax method instead of by creating new user fees.  While it was slightly uncomfortable to be in disagreement, I’m glad that I chose to stand up for my beliefs and not agree with a position I did not fully support.

I hope that each person reading this narrative will recognize that you too can make a difference when it comes to government and legislation.  I’m a normal guy who operates a small business and uses a general aviation aircraft to grow my business.  I’m not an aviation legend or a household name, but I stepped forward to support my beliefs and genuinely feel like I made a difference.  I invite each of you to do the same, contact your Congressmen and Senators.  Express your concern and let them hear your story of how aviation user fees will affect your business.  Together, we can make a difference and get user fees off the table once and for good.

Lastly, I would like to give a very special thanks to the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) as well as to the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).  Both of these organizations work diligently on behalf of the general aviation industry and do a phenominal job.  I’ve gotten to know many of the staff members and leaders from both organizations and can adamantly say they are among the best, brightest and most dedicated people I’ve ever known.  They care about all interests in general aviation, both big and small, and I’m honored to be a member of both organizations.   I would also like to thank Congressman Sam Graves for initiating this hearing, along with the respected Congressional leaders who attended and participated in it.  Their time and energy invested was greatly appreciated and I was honored to have the opportunity to speak before them regarding this important issue.

Links to More Information and Resources:

User Fees in the Aviation Industry: Turbulence Ahead – Hearing Information

User Fees in the Aviation Industry: Turbulence Ahead – Brad Pierce – Testimony

User Fees in the Aviation Industry: Turbulence Ahead – Video of Hearing


Join Brad at the 2012 AOPA Aviation Summit in Palm Springs

I’ve been asked to speak again at this year’s 2012 AOPA Aviation Summit which will be held October 11-13th in Palm Springs, California.

I’ll be a panelist on an educational seminar entitled “Light Business Airplane Conference: Mission Critical: Using Aviation to Grow Your Business”This seminar is being presented as a collaboration between the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).  It will be moderated by Mike Nichols who is the Vice President of Operations, Education, and Economics for NBAA.

The focus of this seminar pertains to using general aviation airplanes for your business needs.  Myself and the other panelists will explain exactly how we’ve used our airplanes to grow our companies and enhance our lives.  I can honestly say that our company wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for our Turbo SR22 Cirrus Aircraft and the huge advantage it’s provided to us over our competition.  Information presented will be packed with real world experience showing how using GA in your business is not only possible, but will be a game changer for your organization.  There will also be plenty of time for Q&A to get answers from panelists and the NBAA regarding business aviation usage.

Mark your calender to spend October 11-13th in Palm Springs, California with myself and other aviation enthusiasts and professionals for a fantastic event you won’t want to miss.  My particular panel session will be held on Saturday, October 13, 2012 from 10:30 AM – 11:45 AM in the Mojave room at the convention center.

You can register for the 2012 AOPA Aviation Summit by visiting

You can learn more about the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) by visiting


Brad’s NBAA Flight Plan Interviews: BARR Fight Victory!

In March of 2011, the Department of Transportation made a shocking change which eliminated the Blocked Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program.  The BARR system enabled personal and corporate aircraft operators such as myself to block tracking of our aircraft so that they couldn’t be tracked by anonymous users with nothing more than a web browser.  Once dismantled, competitors and random people online could see every move we made in our aircraft, the equivalent of allowing someone to go online and see the movements of every road you take and location you visit in your personal or company vehicle.  Obviously, this not only caused quite a stir in the aviation industry, but also had much larger implications for society as a whole if this same principal of complete online visibility was applied in the future to other types of vehicles.  Our basic right to privacy had been eliminated, but fortunately, there were numerous industry groups ready to battle this misguided move by our government.  Among those groups were the NBAA (National Business Aviation Association), the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) and the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association).

Throughout the course of the BARR fight, I spoke with numerous media outlets to help explain why this change was a poor decision and how it would affect small businesses such as my own.  I was also in contact with numerous political leaders, urging them to work towards reversing this wrong that had been committed against so many people and businesses such as my own.

On November 17th of 2011, I got an early Christmas present when I received word that the BARR fight was over – WE WERE VICTORIOUS!  I was absolutely thrilled to say the least.  Congress stepped in and reinstated the BARR program which sent a clear message that the rights of privacy were still important to the American people and businesses.

I certainly very thankful and appreciative to each of the aviation industry organizations who worked so diligently to protect the rights of aircraft owners and operators everywhere.  I’m also very appreciative of our elected leaders who did the right thing by ensuring the privacy of the citizens and businesses they represent remains protected.

Interview #1

After the victory was announced, I was honored to be interviewed for NBAA’s Flight Plan Podcast with host Pete Combs. You can read a full article, Congress Reinstates the BARR – What’s Next? by clicking here.   At the bottom of the article there’s the full audio portion of the interview.  I’ve also included a link directly to the audio interview here for your convenience.

Read the Full Article at the NBAA Site:  Congress Reinstates the BARR – What’s Next?
Listen to the Full Audio Interview:  Listen Now

Interview #2

Additionally, as a follow-up to this story, Pete Combs did another segment during his 2011 year in review series.  You can read the full article, BARR Battle Figured Prominently for Industry in 2011 by clicking here.  At the bottom of the article there’s the full audio portion of the interview.  I’ve also included a link directly to the audio interview here for your convenience.

Read the Full Article at the NBAA Site:  BARR Battle Figured Prominently for Industry in 2011
Listen to the Full Audio Interview:  Listen Now

Thanks again to everyone who worked so diligently to make this victory possible!

Two Great Aviation Events – AOPA Aviation Summit and NBAA 2011

The aviation trade show season is upon us and the I hope that you’ll plan on joining me at two great aviation events which are happening soon.

The first is the 2011 AOPA (Airplane Owners & Pilots Association) Aviation Summit which is being held in Hartford, Connecticut from September 22nd-24th.  I’ll be speaking at this event regarding utilizing general aviation aircraft for business purposes.  You can find out more information and register this event by visiting:

The next event is the 2011 NBAA (National Business Aviation Association) 64th Annual Meeting & Convention which is being held in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada from October 10th-12th.  I’m an avid fan of the great work the folks at the NBAA do each day to promote the use of general aviation and know this will be a fantastic event.  You can find out more information and register for this event by visiting:

I’ll see you soon at both of these not-to-be-missed aviation events in Hartford and Las Vegas!

General Aviation Serves America – Flying the Friendly Skies (AOPA)

I recently had the honor of being featured in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Pilot Magazine.  The article was written by Ian Twombly, who did a magnificent job of illustrating how I use our company aircraft, a Cirrus SR22, to bring our business to new heights.  This is part of series of articles for a campaign called GA Serves America which highlights the many ways our country benefits from the use of general aviation aircraft.  It was a really enjoyable experience talking and flying with Ian.  Chris Rose also deserves a lot of credit for doing an amazing job with the photography / video for the project and was a pleasure to work with as well.  I’m also very thankful to Cirrus Aircraft and their incredible staff for their role in making this article a reality – our Cirrus SR22 is certainly the star in being a game-changer for our business!

You can read the complete article in the AOPA Pilot Magazine, or online at

The article is also available in PDF format which can be downloaded by visiting: