This report is one of a series of reports responding to the request that the General Accounting Office (GAO) review the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), the nation's major program for planning and improving its airport infrastructure. Administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), this multibillion-dollar program includes set-asides, or legislatively established funding categories, for specific uses. One set-aside provides AIP funds for projects at general aviation airports called "relievers". This set-aside was created by the Congress to (1) reduce congestion at commercial airports by improving reliever airports and (2) provide general aviation with additional access to airports. GAO examined the degree to which these objectives have been addressed. In addition information is provided regarding FAA's allocation of the reliever set-aside funds and potential alternatives to the current set-aside structure. In brief, GAO found the following: FAA does not consider general aviation to be a significant factor in congestion at commercial airports today. During 1983 to 1991, the proportion of general aviation traffic decreased by 38% at the nation's congested commercial airports. This decrease can be attributed to an overall decline in general aviation activity, not the presence of reliever airports. Further, FAA and aviation industry group officials consider access to general aviation facilities to be sufficient--and often more than sufficient--in most areas where relievers are located. At five major metropolitan areas reviewed, most reliever operators said that diminishing general aviation traffic resulted in competition among airports for the same general aviation users. FAA still plans to continue to designate 5% of all AIP funds to add to the $2 billion already set aside since 1982 for reliever airport projects. However, FAA does not know whether funding projects at relievers has actually reduced congestion or improved general aviation access to airports because it has not analyzed the effect of this funding on the airport system. Moreover, although FAA projects only a relatively small growth in general aviation traffic over the next 12 years, it has not analyzed whether the growth justifies the future expenditure of funds for reliever airports. The reliever airport set-aside funds could be redirected. One option is to reduce the number of airports designated as relievers so that only those that currently have the facilities to accommodate large general aviation aircraft--the only forecasted growth segment of general aviation--would be included in the set-aside. A second option is to eliminate the designation altogether and have these airports compete with all other general aviation airports for general aviation and development funds.

  • Record URL:
  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Transportation and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate.
  • Corporate Authors:

    U.S. General Accounting Office

    441 G Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20548
  • Publication Date: 1994-6


  • English

Media Info

  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Tables;
  • Pagination: 28 p.

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00664234
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: GAO/RCED-94-226
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Aug 1 1994 12:00AM