Fee rise for pilot licences slammed

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 10:43 02/09/2012

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The aviation community believes private pilots and smaller operators are being made to pay for the Civil Aviation Authority's "inefficiencies" after the authority announced a significant fee hike.

A new funding framework will kick in from November, affecting all civil aviation fees, charges and levies.

The cost of pilots' licences will go up from about $56 to $230.

Pilots will also have to pay a new fixed "medical certificate application fee" of $313 every time their health is assessed, which for most is an annual requirement.

The rate at which the authority charges for non-medical services - mainly auditing - will jump from $135.70 per hour to $208 per hour and hit $284 per hour by the end of 2014.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said the new funding system, which features about 150 changes in total, would recover an extra $14.1 million over the next three years.

The authority's charges had not been reviewed in 15 years and were considerably lower than needed to meet cost recovery, he said.

Irene King, chief executive of the Aviation Industry Association, which represents the interests of the aviation community, said she felt the new fee structure would not be needed if the authority had better systems in place.

"If they had an efficient administrative system working in their medical unit - in other words, internet-based filing - then they wouldn't have a massive number of people handling bits of paper that inevitably get lost."

The authority's move from Petone to the Asteron Centre in Wellington's Featherston St, which was criticised in 2009 by then Transport Minister Steven Joyce for costing $8.5m, was "undoubtedly" a driver behind the new charges, King said.

In a statement, the authority conceded the fee increases would not have been as much if it had stayed in Petone.

"However, the CAA was facing increased costs in its Petone office, as it was due to upgrade space and fit out."

Authority chief executive Graeme Harris said the updated fees and charges were fairer. "Users are moving closer to paying the true cost of the actual services they use."

King said larger operators would not be too bothered by the new charges. "But for the little guys, I think it could be quite daunting."

Vincent Air chief executive Peter Vincent, who operates seven smaller Dash-8 and Beechcraft 1900 planes out of Wellington, said trainee pilots would likely cringe at the increased medical fees.

"No-one likes paying more, especially if you're not making a living out of your pilot's licence. I can imagine they would be pretty horrified at having to pay $300 for that."

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- Sunday Star Times

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