Airport Capacity

Synopses of Major Studies Gao ID: RCED-92-117FS February 5, 1992

Airspace and airport congestion have created major problems for U.S. aviation, delaying domestic flights throughout the country. To improve the capacity and safety of airports and otherwise enhance their facilities, up to $1.9 billion in federal funding is available in fiscal year 1992 for current projects. The most recent extension of the airport and airway legislation authorizing this funding expires at the end of fiscal year 1992. To assist Congress in its deliberations on the reauthorization of the legislation, this fact sheet summarizes the major airspace capacity-enhancement studies produced since 1987--the year in which the last amendments to the act were enacted. Prepared by the Federal Aviation Administration, congressional agencies, universities, and others, these studies analyze the congestion problem and offer many recommendations to mitigate it.

GAO noted that the options that the studies presented for enhancing or expanding domestic airspace capacity included: (1) developing and implementing new aviation technology to promote more efficient air traffic movement at and around airports; (2) implementing demand management techniques to redistribute demand for services at congested airports; (3) using underutilized airports; (4) expanding existing airports; (5) modifying existing air traffic procedures to allow a greater volume of traffic during adverse weather conditions; (6) developing new aircraft with higher passenger capacities or the capability to operate on much shorter runways; (7) developing a national airport plan that would identify and set priorities for airports essential to the national aviation system; (8) studying the feasibility of remote transfer airports; (9) promoting airport defederalization/privatization; (10) building new airports; and (11) developing high-speed surface transportation to relieve airport congestion for trips of 200 to 700 miles.

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