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EAA AirVenture underway, FAA charging for air traffic controllers

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EAA AirVenture 2013

OSHKOSH (WITI) — EAA’s AirVenture 2013 is here! Thousands of planes from around the world are flocking to Oshkosh this week, and making sure they land safely are 80 air traffic controllers. They are on the job, despite an ongoing legal battle between the EAA and FAA over fees.

In the air and on the ground, planes are moving in every direction. Keeping them safe is the job of people in the world’s busiest control tower.

While they’re busy doing their jobs, behind the scenes, officials with the EAA and FAA are fighting over who should pay for the controllers to be at EAA AirVenture.

EAA officials say the bottom line is, the show will go on.

“It’s going to be a terrific year. It’s been smooth and that’s what you look forward to. You want it safe, you want it smooth, you want it uneventful, unless it’s the event you schedule,” EAA Communications Director Dick Knapinski said.

Earlier this year, the FAA charged the EAA nearly $500,000 to send the controllers for this year’s air show.

Pilots on the ground say they’re concerned the user fees the FAA is charging could eventually trickle down to them.

“I’m disappointed because this is the first time in AirVenture’s history that I can recall the FAA ever charging a fee for air traffic controller services,” Steve Smith of Naperville, IL said.

“There is a lot of money collected in aviation fuel in terms of taxes collected, that I think they should have more than enough money to do what they need to do,” Jeff Starr of Chicago said.

The only people not talking about the legal battle is the FAA. Officials scheduled a tour of the control tower with FOX6’s media partners in Green Bay several weeks ago, but on Friday in an email, an FAA spokesperson cancelled the tour and said the FAA will not be talking with the media.

Also, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta will not be at AirVenture for the annual Meet the Administrator event his year. Knapinski says the administrator had a scheduling conflict with a Boy Scouts event with his son.

“I think it’s something that people always look forward to, to hear from the administrator, have him talk about general aviation and so forth and to have the FAA here to show support for general aviation,”¬†Knapinski said.

The EAA is making its feelings known all over the grounds.

Whether it will change the minds of FAA officials may not be known until well after AirVenture 2013 is in the books.

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