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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Airport Improvement Program (AIP), focusing on whether the relievers set-aside project: (1) reduces congestion at commercial airports by improving reliever airports; and (2) provides general aviation with additional access to airports.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
To ensure that AIP project funds are directed at the most important needs in the nation's air transportation system, Congress may wish to consider reducing the number of eligible reliever airports or further reducing the set-aside for reliever airports upon receipt of information from FAA regarding the need for such airports. If it chooses to further downsize the program, Congress would need to specify the percentage of AIP funds to be set aside for relievers and redirect any remaining portion of the set-aside for other purposes. Likewise, if it chooses to eliminate the program, Congress would need to specify how the current set-aside is to be redirected.
Closed - Implemented
The 104th Congress eliminated the reliever set-aside program in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 1996, and redirected the reliever set-aside percentage to the States/Insular Areas portion of the new AIP distribution formula.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Federal Aviation Administration 1. To improve FAA ability to determine the use of reliever set-aside funds, the Administrator, FAA, should develop and formalize criteria to determine: (1) when reliever airports could provide relief from congestion caused by general aviation traffic; and (2) how much general aviation access is required nationwide and for metropolitan areas that have commercial airports.
Closed - Not Implemented
In August 1998, FAA submitted a draft report to GAO describing changes to the reliever criteria and requesting GAO's comments/concurrence. While FAA changed the reliever criteria, the report did not address GAO's recommendations to determine when relievers could provide relief to congested airports or how much general aviation access is required nationwide and for metropolitan areas that have commercial airports.
Federal Aviation Administration 2. To improve FAA ability to determine the use of reliever set-aside funds, the Administrator, FAA, should develop and analyze data to determine whether the current number of relievers, in combination with other general aviation airports, is appropriate for serving the current and future general aviation traffic.
Closed - Not Implemented
In August 1998, FAA submitted a draft report to GAO describing changes to the reliever criteria and requesting GAO's comments/concurrence. While FAA changed the reliever Criteria, the report did not address GAO's recommendations on whether the current number of relievers, in combination with other general aviation airports, is appropriate for serving the current and future general aviation traffic. In January 1999, the Manager of the Airports Financial Assistance Division confirmed that the issue would not be revisited.
Federal Aviation Administration 3. To improve FAA ability to determine the use of reliever set-aside funds, the Administrator, FAA, should use the newly developed criteria and data to validate future development needs at reliever and general aviation airports.
Closed - Not Implemented
In August 1998, FAA submitted a draft report to GAO describing changes to the reliever criteria and requesting GAO's comments/concurrence. While FAA changed the reliever Criteria, the report did not use this newly developed criteria to address GAO's recommendation to use the newly developed criteria and data to validate future development needs at reliever and general aviation airports.

Full Report