Airport Capacity:

Civilian Use of Military Airfields Has Added Little to System Capacity

RCED-91-130: Published: Apr 18, 1991. Publicly Released: May 8, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed civilian use of active military airfields, focusing on the: (1) extent to which current joint-use airfields were helping to reduce airport congestion and delays; and (2) conditions that would give future joint-use airfields a realistic chance of adding significantly to airport system capacity and mitigating congestion and delays.

GAO found that: (1) the 20 joint-use military airfields provided marginal airport capacity and little relief to congestion and delays at major metropolitan airports, primarily because most joint-use airfields were not located in major metropolitan areas or near congested major airports; and (2) as a result, the 20 joint-use airfields accommodated less than half of 1 percent of all passengers and aircraft take-offs and landings in 1989. GAO also found that, in addition to obtaining local government agency sponsorship and community support, successful joint-use airfield should: (1) be located in a major metropolitan area and be near enough to a congested airport to offer alternatives; (2) be in demand by either commercial aviation or general aviation not currently served by noncongested airports in the immediate area; and (3) not have its particular demand limited by military restrictions.

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