Airport Noise:

FAA's Enforcement of Noise Rules at National Airport

RCED-88-117: Published: Apr 15, 1988. Publicly Released: May 3, 1988.

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Kenneth M. Mead
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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) monitoring and enforcement of aircraft noise rules at Washington National Airport.

GAO found that: (1) between January 1982 and June 1987, FAA monitored all flights between 10 P.M. and 7 A.M. for compliance with the nighttime rule and imposed penalties for violations; (2) FAA exempted noncompliant operations which it determined were beyond operator control; (3) during the past 6 years, flights during peak traffic hours have exceeded high-density rule limits by up to 13 percent; (4) since its monitoring equipment broke down in 1985, FAA has relied on voluntary operator compliance with the airport's noise abatement procedures; and (5) it was unable to determine the number of violations or the rate at which FAA imposed penalties, since FAA did not maintain adequate records. GAO noted that the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority budgeted funds to purchase monitoring equipment as part of its responsibility for noise abatement.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA stated that: (1) all air carrier and commuter schedules are monitored; (2) no air carrier or commuter operator can schedule more flights than the number of slots held without FAA detection; and (3) a carrier cannot feasibly operate a flight regularly at an unscheduled time because the flight could not be marketed. Monitoring all operations would be an unnecessary use of air traffic resources.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to: (1) monitor all--or a systematic, generalizable sample of--operations at high-density airports, including National Airport, for compliance with the high-density rule; and (2) maintain a system of records of the violations identified and its disposition of them in a form that will enable FAA to evaluate its overall monitoring and enforcement effort.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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