Aviation Safety:

Commuter Airports Should Participate in the Airport Certification Program

RCED-88-41: Published: Nov 18, 1987. Publicly Released: Dec 18, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) requirements for participation in its Airport Certification Program, particularly: (1) its requirements for commuter airlines with 30 or fewer passenger seats; (2) the program's safety benefits and cost-effectiveness; and (3) alternative requirements and their impact on commuter airports.

GAO found that: (1) airports that serve only commuter airlines with less than 31 passengers cannot acquire certification; (2) many currently certified airports could lose their certification because they no longer meet FAA participation requirements; (3) the program has increased airport safety by reducing the risk of accidents and enhancing airports' ability to deal with accidents; (4) airport certification costs ranged from $25,000 to $313,000 for capital costs, $8,200 to $77,000 for annual operating costs, and $820 to $2,100 for FAA inspection and recertification; (5) a grant program under the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982 could cover most of airports' capital costs; and (6) implementation of alternative participation requirements would increase the number of certified commuter airports.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In fall 1989, the Secretary of Transportation sought legislative authority. However, Congress did not introduce legislation in this regard. Accordingly, GAO is closing this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to change the participation requirements for the Airport Certification Program to require certification for all airports that receive regularly scheduled service. If the Secretary deems it necessary to resolve uncertainty over his authority to certify commuter airports, he should seek specific authority from Congress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Transportation (DOT) agreed with this recommendation, but needs changes in legislation, which it pursued to give it statutory authority. Congress did not introduce such legislation. Accordingly, GAO is closing this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to develop a new category of certification for low-activity airports that would require full implementation of the risk-reduction features of the airport certification program and allow the use of alternatives for crash, fire, and rescue equipment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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