Runways at Small Airports Are Deteriorating Because of Deferred Maintenance

CED-82-104: Published: Sep 13, 1982. Publicly Released: Sep 13, 1982.

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GAO reviewed airport runway maintenance nationwide to determine whether airport owners are properly maintaining their runways. Between 1970 and 1981, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) invested approximately $750 million to construct and improve many of the Nation's runways in return for the owners' assurances to properly maintain the airports.

GAO found that, in a substantial portion of the airports it visited, critical runway pavement maintenance was being deferred, and there is evidence that the problem is nationwide. Most of these cases involved the failure to promptly repair pavement cracks. Delaying needed repairs often leads to structural problems in the underlying pavement, thereby increasing rehabilitation costs. Lack of funds was the primary reason airport representatives cited for deferring maintenance; however, FAA failure to report poor maintenance conditions and practices during routine airport inspections and to require the owners to make timely repairs was a contributing factor. Despite recent FAA efforts to improve pavement maintenance guidelines, GAO believes that FAA may have to use administrative or judicial actions to obtain compliance, if owners do not comply voluntarily.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of FAA to complete the advisory circular on pavement maintenance and provide a copy to all airport owners, together with any necessary training on how to apply it.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of FAA to require the agency's airport inspectors to report airport owners' unsatisfactory maintenance of runways.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of FAA to require the agency's regional offices to aggressively pursue airport owners' compliance with maintenance obligations, including taking administrative or judicial actions against owners who fail to satisfactorily maintain their runways.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of FAA to require the agency's regional offices to contact aviation officials in the States that are not currently assisting small airports to see if such financial assistance can be arranged.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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