by Jim Hanson
Manager of Albert Lea Airport Inc.
Albert Lea, Minnesota
It’s mostly good news! Eliminating the tax on aviation parts not only helps Minnesota airplane owners, but helps Minnesota FBOs remain competitive with other states and with mail order internet sellers.
The new registration fee schedule is having the registration money dedicated to MN/DOT Aeronautics, rather than the general fund is certainly a plus.
The new registration fee schedule can be a problem in setting fees for kit-built airplanes. MN/DOT does have the costs for popular kits like the Van’s RV series, but not for all kits – something that will need to be addressed.
Aircraft formerly classified as “ultralights” (and now reclassified as “light sport” ) face the $100 minimum fee – even for a low-cost aircraft – unless the aircraft or kit costs less than $10,000 new. In my own case, the kit for my Kolb Firestar (originally an ultralight, but now an Experimental LSA), cost less than $10,000 without the engine or instruments and there is no registration due. The owners of those aircraft cite the confusing language of the bill – the provision for recreational aircraft has different meanings for state and federal purposes. Some of the owners of these “former ultralights” have asked for relief, as they rarely use state airport facilities.
Though some owners may have a minimal increase right now, there is something good in the bill for the future for MANY aircraft owners. The vintage aircraft provision remains. Once an aircraft reaches 50 years of age, there is a ONE-TIME charge of $25. As one of the people in MN/DOT Aircraft Registration put it, “Give us $25.00 and you will never hear from us again. Right now, that means that if your aircraft is a 1964 model year or older, you can simply pay the $25.00, and never worry about registration costs again. Since the great majority of the GA fleet was either built before 1964 or during the ’60s and ’70s, that means that the majority of the fleet either falls under that provision, or soon will fall under it.
Raising the tax on jet fuel by 10 cents per gallon may hurt Minnesota FBOs. Jet crews have a lot of leeway on where they take on fuel and if fuel is higher in Minnesota, they will likely tanker fuel from a cheaper state.
It should be remembered that these fees were instituted by the legislature, not MN/DOT Aeronautics. Though they bill out the fees, they have no control with their institution. Any changes will require a change to the legislation.
As the old saying goes, the legislature gives and the legislature takes away. I’m sure that in the future, some fine-tuning will have to be done on the bill, but overall, the bill is an improvement.