Tuesday, October 18, 2011

MAPPS Announces Speakers for Fall Policy Conference

MAPPS is pleased to report that an official from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is  confirmed as a speaker at the MAPPS Fall Policy Conference.

Peder Magee, a senior attorney in the FTC’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, will speak to MAPPS members on Thursday, November 17.

Mr. Magee works on a variety of policy and litigation matters, including online behavioral marketing, and was involved in the December 2010 "Preliminary FTC Staff Report on Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers."

The report proposed that firms be required to obtain a citizen's approval prior to collecting, storing or using "precise geolocation" data. MAPPS led a geospatial community effort to persuade the FTC to remove or revise the proposal.

Other presentations will feature:

Jerry Johnston of EPA, who will provide a demonstration of the "Geospatial Platform" being developed by the US Government. Johnston will discuss important issues affecting whether and how your firm's data can be on the platform.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is launching a new program to utilize remote sensing technologies, including LIDAR and others, in its airports program. An Advisory Circular has been issued. FAA will brief MAPPS members on the circular and the potential program.

Other presentations will be announced shortly.

The conference will also feature meetings of the MAPPS Federal Agency Liaison Committees (NGA, USDA, USGS, NOAA, DoD & DHS, and FAA & TSA), which includes valuable information from our Federal agency partners. This year, the MAPPS Fall Policy Conference will be held on Thursday, November 17 at the Hilton Washington Dulles Hotel in Herndon, VA, concurrent with the ASPRS/Pecora Symposium.

Early registration for the MAPPS Fall Policy Conference ends October 30. The MAPPS Fall Policy Conference features sessions on topics of interest to the geospatial community. Presentations will focus on policy issues that affect your firm and your markets.

The MAPPS Fall Policy Conference is only open to MAPPS members. If your firm has not joined MAPPS, we invite private sector firms to join today.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Longer Depreciation Schedules and Air Traffic Control

Guest Blogger: Richard Breitlow is an account executive with AGFA Materials Corporation, where he specializes in aerial photography product sales.  He is chairman of the Aerial Acquisition Committee of MAPPS with more than 38 years’ experience in the aerial photography business.

Recently, President Obama proposed a Federal debt and deficit reduction plan that includes slower and longer depreciation schedules for business owned aircraft. While billed as eliminating a tax loophole for corporate executives’ jets, the proposal would also adversely affect small businesses, including aerial imagery and geospatial data collection operators. MAPPS has already commented on that proposal.

Now the "President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction" has been released, including a proposed $100 per flight fee for air traffic control services.  This double-whammy on the aerial survey profession is both economically unwise and politically burdensome and unfair.

Like other aviation related associations, MAPPS recognizes the need to pay for air traffic control (ATC) services. General aviation has historically paid for those services through fuel taxes, commonly referred to as "pay at the pump". The proposed $100 fee per flight would add a whole new accounting requirement and new level of government bureaucracy just to administer and enforce the new requirement. The best way for general aviation to pay for ATC services is to continue to pay at the pump. Whether the current amount taxed is appropriate, or should be raised is another argument.  Certainly there is a lot of waste in FAA spending that should be eliminated before increases are considered. 

The Obama Administration portrayed the proposed fee as a tax on corporate jets. However the actual wording only excludes military aircraft, public aircraft, recreational piston aircraft, air ambulances, aircraft operating outside of controlled airspace, and Canada-to-Canada flights. All aerial survey flights in controlled airspace would be subject to the proposed fee, regardless of aircraft type. MAPPS has gone on record in opposition to per flight air traffic control fees.

Adding a $100 fee per flight for ATC services would only further burden a profession already hard-hit by the decline in the housing market, and the economy in general, and would certainly have a negative impact on hiring. This fee would have just the opposite effect of the intent of the President's "jobs bill". 

Lobbyists for commercial airlines have long favored measures to shift a larger share of the burden for ATC services to general aviation. However, attempts in the past to include a per flight ATC user fee or "charge" in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Authorization bill have been met with stiff opposition.

The current effort will, and should, meet a similar fate.

While the President’s Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction appears to have little chance of passing Congress, parts of it could find its way into the "Super Committee's" plan to reduce the national debt and annual government deficit. This is where the real danger lies. 

In order to protect the interests of the aerial survey profession, and the public and clients we serve, I suggest:
  • the current Pay at the Pump method be preserved as the best way for general aviation to help pay for ATC services and the "fee per flight" concept be rejected,
  • Identify “Super Committee” members who are aviation friendly and urge them to either reject the fee outright, or adopt wording to exclude flights that are primarily work operations, such as small businesses operating aircraft for aerial surveys.
  • Identify FAA activities that can be reformed, eliminated or privatized to save money and explore a more balanced and equitable method of paying for FAA and ATC services that does not  unfairly target general aviation generally or aerial survey operations in particular.