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Airport and Airway Trust Fund: Preliminary Observations on Past, Present, and Future

GAO-05-657T Published: May 04, 2005. Publicly Released: May 04, 2005.
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The Airport and Airway Trust Fund (Trust Fund) was established in 1970 to help fund the development of a nationwide airport and airway system and to fund investments in air traffic control facilities. It provides all of the funding for FAA's accounts such as the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which provides grants for construction and safety projects at airports, the Facilities and Equipment (F&E),which funds technological improvements to the air traffic control system, and the Research, Engineering, and Development (RE&D). In addition, the Trust Fund provides some funding for FAA's operations account. To fund these accounts, the Trust Fund relies on a number of taxes for revenue, including passenger ticket, fuel, and cargo taxes that are paid by passengers and airlines. Since 1970, revenues have generally exceeded expenditures--resulting in a surplus or an uncommitted balance. In 2004, the Trust Fund's year end uncommitted balance was about $2 billion. A number of structural changes in the aviation industry and external events have affected revenues flowing into and out of the Fund and have caused some aviation stakeholders to speculate about the Fund's financial condition. The various taxes that accrue to the Trust Fund are scheduled to expire in 2007. GAO was asked to provide information and analysis about the financial outlook of the Trust Fund.

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Air traffic control systemsBudget administrationBudget controllabilityBudget surplusFederal aid for transportationFederal fundsFunds managementFuture budget projectionsTrust fundsUnexpended budget balancesUnobligated budget balances