Developing a National Airport System

Additional Congressional Guidance Needed Gao ID: CED-79-17 April 17, 1979

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a national airport system plan which showed that over $10 billion will be needed in the next decade to improve 3,100 of the nation's airports and to build almost 500 new ones. The national plan includes about $2.9 billion to improve some 2,600 general aviation airports. FAA defined general aviation airports having significant national interest as those with 10 based aircraft and situated 30 minutes from another airport in the national plan. This definition was to provide as many citizens as possible with reasonable access to a safe and adequate airport.

Using this definition, FAA reduced by about 400 the number of general aviation airports included in the 1978 national plan as compared to the old national plan. However, this reduction may not have been as large as Congress intended. An additional 500 general aviation airports could have been eliminated had FAA used 20 based aircraft in its definition of significant national interest. FAA recognizes the importance of airport planning and has developed basic planning guidelines. However, airport master plans are not required as a condition for Federal airport development grants. Improvements in FAA planning and guidelines are needed to focus greater attention on the merits of regional airports and to assure that airport noise problems are adequately considered and plans are fully coordinated with state and local interests. Airport development grants are adequate to cover only half of the needs. Under current legislation, FAA was not been able to carry out the national plan or assure that important airport needs, such as safety, were met.


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