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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO: (1) described the specific noise abatement procedures at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport; (2) determined whether the airlines comply with these procedures; and (3) assessed whether local citizen groups believe that existing noise abatement procedures and penalties are effective.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority 1. To ensure that airlines operating at Reagan National during nighttime hours do so in compliance with the local nighttime noise rule, the President/Chief Executive Officer, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, should commit to a schedule of randomly verifying that arriving and departing aircraft are being operated in a manner consistent with the terms of legally binding agreements that some airlines have reached with MWAA and FAA.
Closed - Implemented
According to the Chief Counsel, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), the agency is now randomly spot-checking airline compliance with nighttime noise limits (most of which are weight-related because all aircraft operating to and from Washington National Airport are now equipped with modern "stage 3" noise-compliant engines). MWAA does so by randomly obtaining flight data from aircraft transponders. This also allows MWAA to see if aircraft are operating in manners consistent with the agreements between the airlines, MWAA, and FAA (e.g., regarding takeoff and landing times or "slots").
Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority 2. The President/Chief Executive Officer, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, should study the relative benefits and costs of procuring a more technologically advanced noise-monitoring system.
Closed - Implemented
According to the Chief Counsel, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), the agency is completing a "Part 150" noise study. This study is "likely" to include recommendations to FAA that MWAA be funded to procure a state-of-the-art noise monitoring and compliance system. The Chief Counsel also noted that MWAA has implemented several upgrades to its former system in the past few years, which allow it to obtain real-time noise compliance information from aircraft transponders. This has allowed the airport authority to check compliance more readily rather than having to request information from FAA.
Federal Aviation Administration 3. To improve oversight of the federal slot rule, particularly in light of the addition of 24 flights at Reagan National, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to: (1) develop a reliable method (including definitions and procedures) for consistently determining whether airlines are complying with the federal slot rule; and (2) maintain a system of records of the violations identified and FAA's disposition of them in a form that will enable FAA to evaluate its overall monitoring and enforcement effort.
Closed - Not Implemented
In a written response, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) indicated that it no longer agreed with the facts as presented in the report, in which GAO had written that FAA does not have a systematic way to monitor compliance with or enforce violations of the DCA slot rule. FAA's Nov. 11, 2004 letter indicated that "...FAA does have a reliable method for consistently determining whether airlines are complying with the slot rule." The letter noted that FAA compares slot allocations to the published schedules and randomly samples to verify that carriers' slot holdings are consistent with its published schedule. FAA described its procedures and processes as "adequate" and noted that any additional effort to monitor compliance would only divert resources otherwise devoted to administering other aspects of the slot program.

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