OSHKOSH, Wis. — The Experimental Aircraft Association has agreed to pay the Federal Aviation Administration $450,000 for air traffic control services during the upcoming AirVenture fly-in — but under protest.
EAA Chairman Jack Pelton told Oshkosh Northwestern Media (http://oshko.sh/19wwpEF ) that the EAA had no choice but to pay the fee or cancel the air show, which is scheduled to begin July 29.
"As far as we're concerned, this isn't over," Pelton said in a statement. "We entered this agreement only because there was no other realistic choice to preserve aviation's largest annual gathering."
Pelton said he was looking forward to having FAA officials at AirVenture "to personally explain their policy to the nation's aviators."
The FAA didn't respond to a request for comment from the newspaper on Thursday. It sent a statement to The Associated Press on Friday saying it was pleased an agreement had been reached that "balances both the needs of the air show and the demands of the current fiscal environment."
The federal agency has a contract with a private company to provide air traffic control at Wittman Regional Airport during most of the year. But during AirVenture, the agency has its controllers there, in part because the tower becomes the busiest in the world during the duration of the show.
The FAA said previously that it had asked EAA to pay for air traffic control this year because it is required to cut $384 million in costs by Sept. 30. Money that Congress provided earlier this year to avoid furloughs of controllers didn't affect those other cuts, the agency said.
The agency has said it would provide 87 air traffic controllers and supervise air safety during the show for $447,000. It still plans to reduce its participation at forums and exhibits because of the budget cuts.
The agreement between the EAA and FAA requires the aviation group to pay part of the fee in advance and the rest at the end of the show.
Pelton said that AirVenture and other air shows have become pawns in the ongoing budget fight going on in Washington.
"It's important that we stand together and let those in Congress and the White House know the importance of aviation," he said. "We will do that in Oshkosh, and we look forward to having those who love the freedom of flight stand with us."