oversight

Airport Safety Inspection Program Needed To Improve Flight Safety of Civil Aircraft

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1971-01-15.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

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    REPORT             TO                 CONGRESS
                                             llll1llillllllllIllllllllll
                                                       LM095749




    Airport Safety Inspection
    Program Needed To Improwe
    Flight Safety Of
           i rcraft      B-764497   (1)




    Federal Aviation Administration
    Department of Transportation




    BY THE COMPTROLLER   GENERAL
    OF THE UNITED STATES
                                                   , .     .-


                          COMPTROLLER            GENERAL        OF     THE       UNITED     STATES
                                             WASHINGTON.         DC.         20548




      B- 164497(          1)




      To the        President      of the Senate     and the
r-,   Speaker         of the    House   of Representatives


                   This    is our       report        on the         need            for   an airport        safety
I     inspection  program       to improve       flight                               safety    of civil      aircraft
      by the Federal    Aviation     Administration,                                       Department          of Trans-   !-’
 .    portation.


              The review  was made    pursuant                                        to the Budget   and Account-
      ing Act,   1921 (31 U.S.C. 53), and the                                        Accounting    and Auditing    Act
      of 1950 (31 U.S.C.   67).


               Copies  of this             report  are               being  sent to the Director,         Of-
      fice   of Management                 and Budget;                the Secretary    of Transportation;
      and    the     Administrator,               Federal              Aviation            Administration.




                                                                     Comptroller                General
                                                                     of the United              States
                            Contents
                                                                Page

DIGEST                                                            1
CHAPTER

     1     INTRODUCTION                                           3

     2     AIRPORT SAFETY INSPECTION PROGRAMNEEDED
           TO IMPROVE FLIGHT SAFETY OF CIVIL AIRCRAFT             6
               Airport    inspection   programs                   7
               Evaluation     of selected inspection
                  programs                                        9
               Test airport     safety inspection    pro-
                  gram                                           13
               Procedures to promote safety at air-
                  ports                                          14

     3     AGENCY COMMENTSAND OUR EVALUATION                     19
       4   SCOPEOF REVIEW                                        20

APPENDIX

       I   Letter dated June 11, 1970, from the Depart-
             ment of Transportation to the General
             Accounting Office                                   23
  II       Principal     officials     of the Department   of
              Transportation       responsible  for the
              activities      discussed in this report           25

                            ABBREVIATIONS

FM         Federal   Aviation     Administration

FMP        Federal-aid    to Airports        Program

GAO        General   Accounting     Office
                                                    .




COkfFTROLLER
           GENEPAL'S                         AIRPORT SAFETY INSPECTION PROGRAMNEEDEDTO
REPORTTO THE CONGRESS                        IMPROVE FLIGHT SAFETY OF CIVIL AIRCRAFT
                                             Federal Aviation Administration
                                             Department of Transportation    B-164497(1)


DIGEST
------

WHYTHEREVIEWWASMADE
         The Federal Aviation Administration      (Agency) is required by law to promote
         flight safety of civil   aircraft   in the United States by prescribing  rea-
         sonable rules and regulations     or minimum safety standards.   Airmen, air-
         craft, and public airports are equally important elements in what is com-
         monly referred to as the national aviation system.

         The Agency has established minimum mandatory safety standards and has
         conducted programs to ensure that these standards are met by airmen, air-
         craft, and other related activities.

         Although the Agency has had general authority    since 1958 to perform similar
         functions regarding air carrier airports    that serve commercial passenger and
         cargo air carriers certificated    by the Civil Aeronautics Board and general
         aviation airports which ordinarily    serve only private and small commercial
         aircraft,  it had not established minimum mandatory safety standards nor
         comprehensive safety programs for these airports.

         The General Accounting Office (GAO) made the review to determine whether
         the Federal Aviation AdminWxation-could           fully-carry-out    .its.~~.s~b~il;y
                                       -at both-air carrier and general. aviationairports                I
                                he degree . of control o.ve.r.,airportS..that     it
                                                                           . > ".w.... does    over
                                                                                      i .d..-.Ac.4,..I_
                                                                                               a C*prri
                                                                                                     ,-.
                                 .-'- ---..
                             ".

FIi'iDINGSANDCONCLUSIONS
         Although conditions at airports may seriously     influence flight   safety, the
         Agency did not have a program specifically     designed to evaluate the safety
         of public airports.     It relied on airport inspections    under other programs
         which do not have safety as a primary objective.        These programs neither
         singly nor collectively    provided the data required for determining safety
         of an airport.    (See pp. 9 to 12.)

         In 1967, the Agency conducted a test safety inspection      program at 32 public
         airports and found conditions that could cause accidents.       Some of these
         conditions were previously     unknown to the Agency and to airport management.
         An Agency official  said that this program had been discontinued because
         employee ceilings  established    by the Department of Transportation  had not
         permitted the Agency to obtain the necessary additional      manpower. (See
         p. 13.)

Tear   Sheet


                                                                       JAN. 15, a 9 7 1
    GAO's conclusion            is that    an airport  safety inspection program is needed so    .;
    that     i!-z   Agency     can better Sulf;ll    its responsibility  of ensuring the
    flight      safety       of aircraft    at both air carrier and general aviation airports.

    Before GAD finished its review, the Congress considered a bill requiring
    the Agency to develop and enforce minimum mandatory safety standards for
    air carrier airports and to certificate  airports meeting such standards.
    In March 1970, GAO furnished its findings to the cotigressional committees
    considering the proposed legislation.

   In May 1970, the Congress passed the Airport and Airway Development Act re-
   quiring the Agency to establish minimum mandatory safety standards for op-
   eration of air carrier airports   and to certificate  each airport meeting the
   standards.   The act does not require the agency to establish     and enforce
   similar  standards for general aviation airports.    However, the Agency re-
   tains the authority   to inspect and set standards for these airports    under
   previous legislation.    (See p. 16.)


RECOMMENDATIONS
            OR SUGGESTIONS
    GAO suggested in February 1970 that the Secretary of Transportation  have
    the Federal Aviation Administrator  implement a safety inspection program
    for air carrier and general aviation airports.   (See p. 19.)


AGENCY
     ACTIONSANDUNRESOLVED
                       ISSUES
   The Department agreed to implement GAO's suggestions with respect to air
   carrier airports   as part of the Agency's overall implementation    of the
   Airport and Airway Development Act.    In  addition, the Department   has said
   that it plans to survey general aviation airports and implement safety
   standards as needed. (See p. 19.) GAObelieves that these actions, if
   effectively  implemented and sustained, will improve flight    safety of civil
   aircraft.

   GAO plans to examine the results of these programs to determine                 whether
   they eliminate the problems discussed in this report.


MATTERS
      FORCONSIDERATION
                    BY THECONGRESS
   This report is being issued to inform the Congress of the progress being
   made in implementing recently enacted legislation  requiring the certifica-
   tion of air carrier airports and the Agency's plans with regard to apply-
   ing safety standards to general aviation airports.
’   I


        COMPTROLLER
                  GENERAL'S                AIRPORT SAFETY INSPECTION PROGRAMNEEDEDTO
.       REPORT
             TO THECONGRESS                IMPROVEFLIGHT SAFETY OF CIVIL AIRCRAFT
                                           Federal Aviation Administration
                                           Department of Transportation    B-164497(1)


        DIGEST
        ------

        WHYTHEREVIEWWASMADE
            The Federal Aviation Administration      (Agency) is required by law to promote
            flight safety of civil   aircraft   in the United States by prescribing  rea-
            sonable rules and regulations     or minimum safety standards.   Airmen, air-
            craft, and public airports are equally important elements in what is com-
            monly referred to as the national aviation system.

            The Agency has established minimum mandatory safety standards and has
            conducted programs to ensure that these standards are met by airmen, air-
            craft, and other related activities.

            Although the Agency has had general authority    since 1958 to perform similar
            functions regarding air carrier airports    that serve commercial passenger and
            cargo air carriers certificated    by the Civil Aeronautics Board and general
            aviation airports which ordinarily    serve only private and small commercial
            aircraft,  it had not established minimum mandatory safety standards nor
            comprehensive safety programs for these airports.

            The General Accounting Office (GAO) made the review to determine whether
            the Federal Aviation Administration    could fully carry out its responsibility
            to promote flight    safety at both air carrier and general aviation airports        .
            without exercising    the degree of control over airports  that it does over
            airmen and aircraft.


        FINDINGSANDCONCLUSIONS
            Although conditions at airports may seriously     influence flight   safety, the
            Agency did not have a program specifically     designed to evaluate the safety
            of public airports.     It relied on airport inspections    under other programs
            which do not have safety as a primary objective.        These programs neither
            singly nor collectively    provided the data required for determining safety
            of an airport.    (See pp. 9 to 12.)

            In 1967, the Agency conducted a test safety inspection        program at 32 public
            airports  and found conditions    that could cause accidents.     Some of these
            conditions were previously     unknown to the Agency and to airport management.
            An Agency official  said that this program had been discontinued because
            employee ceilings  established    by the Department of Transportation    had not
            permitted the Agency to obtain the necessary additional        manpower. (See
            p. 13.)



                                             1
GAO's conclusion is that an airport safety inspection   program is needed so      1
that the Agency can better fulfill   its responsibility of ensuring the ,
iiigi-,t safety of aircraft at both air carrier and general aviation airports.'

Before GAO finished  its review, the Congress considered a bill requiring
the Agency to develop and enforce minimum mandatory safety standards for
air carrier airports   and to certificate airports meeting such standards.
In March 1970, GAO furnished its findings to the congressional   committees
considering the proposed legis?ation.

In May 1970, the Congress passed the Airport and Airway Development Act re-
quiring the Agency to establish    minimum mandatory safety standards for op-
eration of air carrier    airports and to certificate  each airport meeting the
standards.    The act does not require the agency to establish     and enforce
similar   standards for general aviation  airports.   However, the Agency re-
tains the authority    to inspect and set standards for these airports    under
previous legislation.     (See p. 1G.)




GAO suggested in February 1970 that the Secretary of Transportation    have
the Federal Aviation Administrator   implement a safety inspection  program
for air carrier and general aviation   airports.  (See p. 19.)




The Department agreed to implement GAO's suggestions with respect to air
carrier airports   as part of the Agency's overall  implementation    of the
Airport and Airway Development Act.    In addition, the Department has said
that it plans to survey general aviation   airports  and implement safety
standards as needed. (See p. 19.) GAObelieves that these actions, if
effectively  implemented and sustained, will improve flight     safety of civil
aircraft.

GAO plans to examine the results of these programs to determine       whether
they eliminate the problems discussed in this report.




This report is being    issued to inform the Congress of the progress being
made in implementing    recently enacted legislation   requiring the certifica-
tion of air carrier    airports  and the Agency's plans with regard to apply-
ing safety standards    to general aviation  airports.
                                 CHAPTER1

                              INTRODUCTION

       The General Accounting Office has reviewed the policies
and practices     of the Federal Aviation      Administration     (FAA)
relative    to the inspection     of public airports     in the United
States.     Our review, which was undertaken       as part of our
continuing    examination   into FAA programs, was directed          to-
ward examining into the nature of FAA's control             and inspec-
tion of public airports       through existing    programs adminis-
tered by the FAA's Airports        Service and Flight      Standards
Service.     We did not make an overall      evaluation     of the ex-
isting   programs nor did we make any determinations            as to
the safety of public airports        in the United States.        The
scope of our review is discussed on page 20.

      One of the primary missions of FAA, as established           by
the Federal Aviation     Act of 1958, is the maintenance of
civil  aeronautics   safety.     The Federal Aviation    Administra-
tor is required by section 601 of the act (49 U.S.C. 1421)
to promote the safety of flight       of civil  aircraft   in air
commerce by prescribing      reasonable rules and regulations        or
minimum safety standards.

        The Administrator         is empowered by the act to issue
certificates         which attest     to the (1) airworthiness       of air-
craft,     (2) competence of airmen, and (3) adequacy of other
related      activities    such as air carrier      operations,      repair
stations,      air navigation       facilities,  and flight     training
schools.
      With regard to air        navigation     facilities,     section     606
of the act provides:

      "The Administrator           is empowered to inspect,       clas-
        sify,     and rate any air navigation          facility   avail-
        able for the use of civil          aircraft,      as to its
        suitability       for such use.     The Administrator        is
        empowered to issue a certificate             for any such air
       navigation       facility."
The act defines an air navigation   facility  as any facility
used in, available  for use in, or designed for use in, aid
of air navigation  and includes,  among other things,   air-
ports.

        Airmen, aircraft,        and airports       are integral    parts of
the national      aviation      system.      For airmen, aircraft,       and
other related       activities,       FAA has established        minimum man-
datory safety standards and has certification                    and surveil-
lance programs designed to provide assurance that the safety
standards are met by the aviation                industry.     The provisions
of the Federal Aviation            Act of 1958 gave FAA similar          au-
thority     regarding     airports;      but, unlike the other integral
parts of the national           aviation     system, FM has not deemed
it necessary to establish             such standards.

        FAA's role in the development and operation                 of public
airports     has been primarily       one of determining         the Nation's
airport     requirements,      encouraging    airport     development,    es-
tablishing      advisory airport      standards,      and ensuring the
availability        of information    regarding     the operational      ade-
quacy of public airports           by annually surveying airport          de-
velopment,      utilization,      and operational      limitations.

        FAA had considered        the possibility    of broadening its
role in the development and operation              of public airports.
In March 1961, the Administrator             was instructed    by the
President      of the United States to develop a statement of
national      aviation    goals.     Development of such goals was
undertaken      by a task force termed "Project          Horizon."    The
Project     Horizon report       stated that a system of airport
classification         should be considered.

       Under this system, FAA would establish        and promulgate
safety standards and rate airports         according to how well
the standards are met.        In response to this statement,      a
proposed national     airport   evaluation   system was developed
within   FAA and presented to the Administrator        in February
1962.    The proposed system provided for establishing          man-
datory airport    safety standards and for evaluating         and rat-
ing airports    in accordance with such established        standards.
In May 1962, the Administrator        told airport   executives   that




                                      4
he was withholding        issuance of mandatory airport  standards
to see if airports        continued their safety improvement trend.

       In February 1966, FAA again considered               whether the
Federal Government should regulate      matters            affecting      the
safety of public airports,     and decided that             justification
for such action was lacking.      The Airports             Service was di-
rected to develop a test inspection       program           to obtain in-
formation   on airport  safety conditions.

       In May 1970, the Congress passed the Airport           and Air-
way Development Act of 1970 (Public Law 258, 91st Cong.)
which requires      that air carrier   airport&    must have an
operating   certificate     from FAA to continue serving air car-
riers after May 21, 1972, and air carrier          airports    not
meeting this requirement        would be operating    in violation     of
the act.
        The act specifically         requires     that the Administrator
establish      minimum mandatory safety standards for the opera-
tion of air carrier         airports     serving air carriers          certifi-
cated by the Civil Aeronautics              Board and issue operating
certificates       to the airports       meeting such standards.              Al-
though the act did not specific$lly                 require FAA to certifi-
cate general aviation          airports,       the language in the Federal
Aviation     Act, which remains in effect,              authorizes     the Ad-
ministrator      to conduct airport         safety inspection        programs
for general aviation         airports     and to prescribe         minimum man-
datory safety standards as necessary.
        The principal     officials      of the Department of Transpor-
tation     responsible    for the activities           discussed in this re-
port are listed        in appendix II.


1
 Air carrier      airports --Airports     that serve commercial pas-
  senger and cargo air carriers          certificated     by the Civil
 Aeronautics      Board.     These airports      also generally     handle
 private    aircraft.
2
 General aviation        airports --All   airports     not classified      as
  air carrier.        Generally   these airports      only serve private
  aircraft    and small commercial aircraft           (under 12,500
 pounds).
                                 CHAPTER2
                                 --.-__

           AIRPOR'I
           -___        SAFETY
                _..- _-._-          INSPECTION
                          - - - _- .-- -.-----.--- PROGRAM
                                                    ----- NEEDED
                                                            --

          TO -IMPROVE
          ----             FLIGHT
               - _-.--.- _______ - ----SAFETY     OF -CIVIL
                                       ---- ---_-_-.-  _-----.- AIRCRAFT

       FM did not have an airport          inspection     program specifi-
cally designed to evaluate safety at public airports.                  We
found that,    although FAA had several inspection             programs
that required     visits    to airports,    none of these programs em-
phasized airport       safety to the extent that they provided,
either   singly or collectively,         comprehensive information       for
determining    the safety of an airport         facility.

         In 1967, FM conducted a test safety inspection           program
at 32 public airports       and found numerous safety hazards
which could cause accidents.           Certain of these conditions      had
been unknown to FAA and to airport            management.   Although the
test safety inspection        program identified      a need for greater
attention      toward possible    safety hazards at airports,      an FAA
official     informed us that the program had not been continued
because employee ceilings         established    by the Department of
Transportation       had not permitted     FAA to obtain the necessary
additional       manpower.

         FAA had the authority    to certificate      airports     and to
set minimum mandatory safety standards for public airports
under the Federal Aviation        Act of 1958.      FAA, however, had
exercised      this authority   only to the extent of establishing
advisory     airport  safety standards.       Compliance with these
standards was mandatory only for airport            facilities       con-
structed     through the use of Federal funds.           We found that,
in many instances,       compliance with the advisory          standards
never became mandatory because facilities             eligible     for Fed-
eral aid were constructed        without    Federal funds or the fa-
cilities     covered by the standards were not eligible              for
Federal funds.

        The methods employed by FAA to prevent or eliminate
airport      safety hazards, in the absence of specific     legisla-
tion requiring      FAA to establish   minimum mandatory safety
standards for public airports        and to certificate  those air-
ports meeting such standards,        appear to have been relatively
ineffective.

                                        6
AIRPORT
---     INSPECTION
          -_1------- PROGIUMS

       At the time we initiated      our review, FAA was not making
systematic   and comprehensive airport        inspections     for the pri-
mary purpose of evaluating      airport    safety.     Rather, two Ser-
vices (Airports    and Flight   Standards) within FAA had several
programs which resulted      in visits   to airports      and, to some
extent, were concerned with airport         safety.

       Following are brief summaries of the more significant
inspection     programs administered by Airports Service or
Flight   Standards Service.

Airports     Service

      Airport      Facilities     Records Program--The purpose of this
program is to obtain,          maintain,   and disseminate       to the avia-
tion community accurate and current              information     relative     to
physical    facilities,       services   available,    and   aviation     activ-
ities    at the airports.         This information     is obtained primar-
ily through annual inspections            of the airports       by FAA's
field personnel.

       Compliance Program-- This program provides a basis for
determining    whether airport   sponsors are complying with the
provisions    of Federal grant agreements which require        that
the airport    be properly  maintained    and operated.    Information
is gathered during compliance inspections          and/or other in-
spections made at the airports       periodically.

Flipht     Standards   Service

        General Aviation      Airport       Surveillance   Program--This      pro-
gram provides for observations               of the general safety aspects
of the airport,       discussions     of     possible deficiencies       with
airport    personnel,     and making        note of aviation    activities      in
need of special attention.

         Air Carrier   Station Facility Inspection Program--Inspec-
tions under this program are made to ensure that air carrier
facilities     continue to be adequate for the type of operations
being conducted at the airport.




                                        7
         Air     Carrier   Certification       Program--Airport      inspections
under this program are made to determine whether the air-
port is suitable   for the planned aircraft        operations.   These
inspections  are made only in connection with the issuance
of or amendments to a certificate       authorizing     an air carrier
to conduct operations    at an airport.

       Air Carrier   En Route Inspection  Program--These   inspec-
tions are primarily     concerned with the competency of a
flight    crew and the adequacy of the air carrier's     operating
procedures,    equipment, and facilities.    These inspections
are made by flying           with    the air    carrier   thus    allowing   obser-
vation         of the airports      used.
EVALUATION OF SELECTEDINSPECTION PROGRAMS

        We reviewed the existing    inspection  programs to deter-
mine whether one or a combination        of the programs would
suffice    as an airport   safety inspection   program.   We found
that each program dealt with a different        aspect of airports
and, in our opinion,     the programs neither     singly nor collec-
tively   provided information     on which a comprehensive evalu-
ation of safety could be based.

        General airport     safety appeared to be the primary ob-
jective    of only one of the inspection         programs--General
Aviation    Airport    Surveillance.      However, for the two re-
gional offices      included in our review, we found that in-
spections under this program were not being made on a reg-
ularly    scheduled basis and that the inspections           that had
been made were incident         to visits   to the airports     for other
reasons.

        In our opinion,        the most comprehensive program is the
Airport    Facilities        Records Program.     The objective   of this
program, however, is to obtain current              information   relative
to physical        facilities,      service available,    and aviation
activities    at the airports --not to evaluate airport             safety.

       FAA apparently   relied primarily      on two of the existing
programs to ensure some degree of airport           safety--Airports
Service's    Compliance Program and Flight        Standards'    Air Car-
rier Certification     Program.     As previously     stated,   the basic
objective    of the Airports    Compliance Program was to provide
a basis for determining       whether airport     sponsors were comply-
ing with Federal grant agreements which require that the air-
port be properly maintained        and operated.     We believe that
FAA's apparent reliance       on this program as a means of ensur-
ing airport     safety was not appropriate       as demonstrated      by
the results     of FAA's test airport     safety inspection       program
(discussed on p. 17) and by two FAA notices regarding                air-
port safety.

         In February 1969, an FAA notice was issued to Airports
Service field personnel which pointed out that the first
priority     objective of the Compliance Program was to ensure
and preserve airport      safety. This notice stated,  in part,
that:


                                       9
       lla significant     number of public airports     have
       deficiencies     which are the result   of continuing
       neglect and failure      to meet the terms of the
       agreements by which they were acquired or de-
       veloped.      Moreover, there is increasing,,evidence
       that the deficiencies      at these airports     continue
       year after year without a positive        effort   by the
       agency to bring about their correction."

        In September 1969, another FAA notice was issued to
field     personnel advising them that a pilot had complained
to FAA about obstructions          in the runway approaches at three
air carrier      airports.     The notice stated that the obstruc-
tions had been previously         noted during FAA. inspections              but
that firm efforts         had not been made to remove the obstruc-
tions.      The notice stated also, that a review of available
inspection      data from one regional        office     disclosed      that 40
air carrier      airports    had runway approach obstructions               which
violated      FAA criteria,     The field personnel were instructed
to attempt to obtain corrective            action on runway approach
deficiencies      by (1) declaring      airports      with deficiencies
in noncompliance with Federal grant agreements,                    (2) giving
airport     sponsors firm notification         to correct       the deficient
conditions,      and (3) taking effective          follow-up      action to
ensure that these conditions          are corrected.

        During our review, which was in process when the above
notices were issued, we found situations                  similar   to those
disclosed      in the notices.         Furthermore,     the FAA’s Office
of Audit,      in a report dated January 5, 1970, on the Compli-
ance Program, cast additional              doubt on the appropriateness
of the Administration's           reliance    on this program to ensure
airport     safety.      The Office of Audit reviewed,            on a random
basis, Airport       Facility     Records reports from four regions
for fiscal      year 1968 involving         210 airports     with Federal
grant agreements and found that 111 airports,                    or 53 percent,
had runway approach obstructions              which violated       FAA crite-
ria.     The Office of Audit indicated            in its report that
these 111 airports         may have violated        the provisions     of Fed-
eral grant agreements and that they may not have been
classified      by FAA as being in a status of noncompliance.
The Office      of Audit, however, was unable to obtain from
FAA officials       satisfactory       explanations    for not placing



                                      10
airports with cited deficiencies   in a status               of noncompli-
ance with Federal grant agreements,,

         With regard to the Flight   Standards Air Carrier              Cer-
tification      Program, the Federal Aviation  Regulations
(part 121.97) require air carriers       to show:

       :'*** that each route it submits for approval has
       enough airports      that are properly     equipped and ade-
       quate for the proposed operation,          considering
       such items as size, surface,         obstructions,      facil-
        . e
       ItIes      public protection,   lighting,      navigational
       and communications       aids, and ATC [air traffic
       control]."
        F&I's inspection     and subsequent approval of airports
under this regulation        generally     are requested by an air
carrier     when it plans to initiate         service to an airport        or
-when an air carrier      plans to start using a new or different
type of aircraft      at an airport.        Approval of airports        is not
an everyday occurrence and, at the two regional                offices      in-
cluded in our review,        we   found  that   Flight   Standards     had    not
made any inspections        of this type in the 3 years preceding
our review.      We learned,      by discussion     with Flight     Stan-
dards' field     personnel and a review of their pertinent                reg-
ulations     and procedures,        that FAA's approval of airports
for air carrier      service is based on information           obtained
from Airports      Service,   flights    into the airport,      and an in-
spection of the airport.

        Flight    Standards'   program undoubtedly      contributed      to
airport     safety.     The most obvious contribution          was the re-
striction      placed on air carrier       operations   due to airport
conditions.         For example, an air carrier       could be restricted
to having only daylight         operations    at an airport       with in-
adequate lighting,        or landing and takeoff       restrictions      could
be placed on air carrier          operations    if an obstruction      ex-
isted in the approach to a runway.

      We noted, however, that Flight       Standards Service did
not have a program which was primarily         concerned with the
continued adequacy of an airport      after    the airport     had been
approved for air carrier   service.      The   Flight     Standards!
programs mentioned previously     (air carrier       station    facility
and en route inspections)         required visits      to airports     and
provided information        on any obvious airport       safety hazards.
However, the lack of a program to ensure the continued
adequacy of air carrier        airports     had caused some concern
within Flight    Standards Service.          We noted that a memoran-
dum--dated February 18, 1969, requested by the Director,
Flight Standards Service,         to provide him with information
on inspection    and surveillance         of air carrier   airports--
concluded that Airports        Service must move ahead with their
proposed airport     safety inspection        program or Flight       Stan-
dards Service    must be staffed        to provide   for the inspection
of air carrier    airports.




                                     12
TEST AIRPORT SAFETY INSPECTION PROGRAM

        During calendar year 1967, FAA conducted, on a test
basis, safety inspections          at 32 public airports      to deter-
mine the need for a comprehensive airport              safety program
and improved airport         safety standards or guidance,         The
test program was designed to identify             conditions   within   the
airport     environment which might cause accidents           or inci-
dents; to inform airport          managers of unsafe or marginal
conditions;       to encourage airport     management to take correc-
tive action;        and to take follow-up     action to ensure that
unsafe conditions         had been corrected,     thereby improving
airport     safety,

       We reviewed the inspection        reports for the 32 airports
included in the test inspection          program.       The inspections
made were concerned with both airport            facility     and opera-
tional   aspects.     The following     table lists       the more signi-
ficant   factors   affecting    airport    safety and the number of
airports    at which deficiencies       were reported.        In preparing
the table, we listed        as a deficiency     any condition     that did
not meet FM's airport         advisory    standards,

                                               Number of airports
                                          with reported deficiencies

Obstructions      and hazards                            31
Runway, taxiway,      apron, etc.                        31
Lighting--runway,      taxiway,   etc.                   28
Passenger and public protection                          27
Fire and rescue service                                  22
Bird hazards                                              8

       FAA's review of the inspection         reports    showed that a
total    of 1,026 deficiencies    had been found at the airports
inspected --some required      immediate action and others re-
quired long-range action.        Some examples of the deficien-
cies were:      approaches to runways were obstructed          by trees,
open trenches,      and mounds of earth in the vicinity         of run-
ways; poor and improper runway markings;             runways in poor
condition;     inadequate fire protection        for the size of air-
port; inadequate maintenance of lighting             systems; and bird-
roosting    areas in the airport    vicinity.



                                    13
       FAA subsequently  concluded         in its   evaluation      of the
test   safety program that:

       1. Conditions   which    could     cause accidents        were noted
          at airports.

       2. Some of the conditions    noted were previously              un-
          'known to FAA and airport   management.

       3. Airport    management and tenants were receptive              to and
          actively    participated in the program,

FAA concluded that the program should be continued with in-
spections    of all air carrier     airports     in depth every other
year; inspections      of other airports       in the National Airport
Plan in depth every third year; and follow-up              inspections
in intervening     years.    The National Airport       Plan lists     the
airports    which are necessary to provide a system of public
airports    adequate to meet the needs of civil          aviation.       Ac-
cording to an FAA official,       the program was not continued
because employee ceilings       established      by the Department of
Transportation     were not sufficient       to permit the Adminis-
trator   to obtain the necessary additional          manpower.

PROCEDURESTO PROMOTESAFETY AT AIRPORTS

        We found that FAA had developed extensive        standards for
airport    design, construction,    and operation.     These stan-
dards were issued in the form of advisory circulars             as part
of the FAA's role in the development of a national             aviation
system.      Compliance with these standards became mandatory
for a public airport       when Federal funds became available
for the development of that airport       under the Federal-aid
to Airports     Program (FAAP). However, an airport         receiving
Federal financial      assistance  was required    to comply only
with the standards applicable       to the specific    airport     fa-
cility   being financed by Federal funds.        For example, a
runway, financed in part with Federal funds, had to be con-
structed     in accordance with FAA standards,       Other runways
at the same airport,      however, not financed with Federal
funds, did not have to be constructed         in accordance with
these standards.




                                     14
       In some cases, compliance with FAA standards never be-
came mandatory because the equipment covered by the stan-
dards was not eligible        for Federal financial     assistance
under FAAP. For example, FAA had issued advisory               circulars
prescribing    the type and amount of fire and rescue equipment
needed at an airport       depending on its size and complexity.
Such equipment, however, was not eligible           for Federal as-
sistance under FAAP. A recent Airline           Pilots Association
study disclosed      that 19 airports    having jet service had no
fire and rescue equipment as of January 1, 1970.               The Air-
line Pilot Association        study disclosed   also that an addi-
tional    127 airports    which handled piston and turboprop          air-
craft   had no fire     and rescue equipment based at the airport.

      Airports    Service and Flight     Standards Service each have
some responsibility      to prevent or eliminate       airport safety
hazards, as evidenced by the inspection          programs mentioned
previously,     The  methods   available   for  use  by the two Ser-
vices in carrying      out that responsibility      varies.

      We found that Airports   Service relies    primarily  on per-
suasion to obtain correction    of potential    safety hazards.
In the event persuasion fails,    Airports    Service may:

      1, Deny Federal participation         in the cost      of future
         airport development.

      2. Withhold Federal      funds   under   an approved     airport
         grant agreement.

Although Airports     Service has used these techniques   in the
past, the use has been limited      by the lac'k of an adequate
airport  safety   inspection  program.    (See pp. 10 and 11.)

       Furthermore,   the above inducement techniques   could be
used only for those airports     which had requested or were
planning to request Federal funds.        The number of airports
within   these categories   was not readily   available to us.
However, as of June 30, 1970, about 2,300 of the 7,160 pub-
lic airports    had received Federal funds under FAAP.

       With regard to the method available   to Flight   Standards
Service to prevent or eliminate     safety hazards, the Federal
Aviation   Regulations  provided that air carriers    and other
commercial operators        of large aircraft     (over 12,500 pounds)
could be prohibited       from using an airport       at which condi-
tions were considered by Flight          Standards to be hazardous.
Although this method might have been more effective               in
obtaining    corrective     action on airport     safety hazards than
those utilized      by Airports    Service,   Flight    Standards Ser-
vice first    had to be aware of any hazardous conditions.

        As stated previously,    Flight    Standards did not       have a
comprehensive inspection      program which continually           empha-
sized the adequacy and safety of airports.             In the     past,
Flight    Standards had used its authority        to restrict      air
carrier    operations  at certain    airports   with clearly       defined
safety hazards.

        Subsequent to the start of our review, the Congress
took under consideration       a bill that would amend the Federal
Aviation    Act of 1958 to require FAA to develop minimum man-
datory safety standards for air carrier         airports    and to
certificate    airports   meeting such standards.        In March
1970, we furnished      our findings  concerning airport      safety
to the congressional      committees considering      the proposed
amendment.

        In May 1970, the Congress passed the Airport            and Air-
way Development Act requiring        FAA to establish       minimum man-
datory safety standards for air carrier            airports   and to is-
sue an operating     certificate    by May 21, 1972, to each air-
port meeting such standards.         The act does-not require that
general aviation     airports    be certificated      although FAA re-
tains the authority      to inspect and set standards for these
airports    under the Federal Aviation         Act of 1958.

        FAA has instituted    a study group comprising        officials
of Airports      Service, Flight   Standards Service,       and Air
Traffic     Service which is studying and delineating          the re-
quirements placed on FAA for airport          certification      and
planning for the implementation         of these requirements,          Air-
ports Service will retain ultimate         responsibility      for the
certification      program.

     The study group, in considering     the alternative  methods
of accomplishing  airport certification,    has stated that air-
port safety is dependent upon (1) airport     design which is


                                     16
the responsibility       of the Airports      Service in cooperation
with the airport      owner, (2) aircraft       operations  which are
the responsibilities        of the Flight Standards Service and
the aircraft     operators,       and (3) proper maintenance and pro-
tection   of airport     facilities      which are the responsibility
of the airport      owner.

       The study group believes that the latter      effort,       which
is not monitored by any of FAA's existing       inspection        pro-
grams, should be accomplished under airport        certification,
Present efforts   of the study group are being directed            to-
ward establishing    standards and inspection    procedures to
ensure proper maintenance and protection      of airport       facil-
ities,

       The study group has defined minimum mandatory safety
standards as levels or conditions    of performance below
which safety would be questionable.      The standards,     as en-
visioned by the study group, would be applicable        to facil-
ities,   personnel,  and activities controlled   by airport     man-
agement and would be such that they could reasonably be
complied with.

        As of October 1, 1970, FAA's plans were to establish
airport    standards in 19 separate areas, including               pavement,
lighting,     fire and rescue (equipment,            personnel and sup-
plies),    emergency plans, self inspection,              and obstructions,
In August 1970, FM informed the aviation                  community of its
general plans regarding       these standards and subsequently
held discussions     on the subject with the aviation              commun-
ity.     FAA is advocating    to the aviation          community, the
adoption,     where appropriate,        of  existing     advisory standards
as the basis for airport         certification.

         The study group plans, as a basic element in the cer-
tification      process, to require   that each airport  manager
prepare an airport       operations  manual,  The procedures de-
scribed in this manual will be used by FAA to evaluate how
the airport      management plans to comply with the minimum
mandatory airport       safety standards.
        FAA expects to complete and issue minimum mandatory
airport    safety standards and to obtain and train staff nec-
essary to implement the airport    certification   program by


                                     17
March 1.971. If FA4 meets this time limit          for issuance of
the standards,    it expects to be able to complete certifi.ca-
tion of all air carrier     airports     by i-he May 1972 deadline
established    by the Congress.      The  study group has not yet
defined its plans for enforcing        compliance with the stan-
dards.




                                18
                               CHfPTER 3

               AGENCY COMMENTSAND OUR EVALUATION

      Conditions   at airports    seriously    influence   the flight
safety of civil    aircraft,     Although FAA had the authority         to
make airports    subject to minimum mandatory safety standards,
it  had not elected to exercise        that authority,     Accordingly,
FAA should exercise      a degree of control      over airports    sim-
ilar to that exercised       over aircraft   and airmen.

        We proposed in February 1970 that the Secretary              of
Transportation      have the Adminstrator        of FAA implement an
airport    safety inspection    program that would include both
air carrier     and general aviation       airports.       On the basis of
information     derived from this inspection           program, we proposed
further    that the Administrator       (1) determine the controls
needed to enable FAA to exercise the same degree of control
over airports     as that exercised      over aircraft       and airmen and
 (2) promulgate appropriate       regulations        and procedures neces-
sary to establish      and implement these controls.

      The Department,       in commenting on our proposals,      has in-
dicated that FAA is in the process of (1) establishing             an
appropriate    airport    safety inspection      program and (2) devel-
oping minimum mandatory safety standards for the operation
of air carrier     airports     in accordance with the Airport     and
Airway Development Act of 1970.             The Department also indi-
cated that it would initiate          a program of additional    surveil-
lance of general aviation         airports.     Should this program in-
dicate that minimum mandatory safety standards are necessary,
the Department plans to establish            such standards.

      In our view, the Departmentts      planned actions appear to
be consistent   with our proposals    and the legislation      requir-
ing FAA to certify   air carrier   airports.     Because FAA's ac-
tions have not been fully    implemented,     we plan to evaluate,
at a later date, the programs FAA is presently          implementing
to determine whether they are effective        in eliminating     the
problems discussed in this report,
                                 CHAPTER4

                             SCOPEOF REVIEW

       Our review included an evaluation    of existing     Airports
Service and Flight     Standards Service inspection     programs to
determine their   adequacy toward ensuring the safety of
flight   of civil aircraft    at airports.

        We examined pertinent     laws, regulations,         policies,     pro-
cedures, correspondence,       inspection    reports,      and other re-
lated documents.       We discussed the matters pertinent               to our
review with FAA headquarters         and regional     office     officials
responsible      for the programs reviewed.       We conducted our
review at the FAA headquarters          in Washington, D.C.; regional
offices    located in Atlanta,      Georgia,   and Fort Worth, Texas;
and selected area offices        within   each of these regions.




                                       20
APPENDIXES




21
                                                                      APPENDIX I
                                                                          Page I


                      OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION
                                 WASHINGTQN,    DE.    20590




ASSISTANT SECRETARY
 FOR ADMINISTRATION



                                                      June 11, l970




Mr. Bernard Sacks
Assistant     Director
Civil   Division
General Accounting         Office
Washington,      D. C.     20548
Dear Mr. Sacks:
This is in reply to your request for our comments on your draft
report to the Congress entitled,   "Airport   Safety Inspection
Program Needed to Improve Flight   Safety of Civil     Aircraft,
Federal Aviation  Administration  (FAA)."   In the report you
conclude that FAA should exercise more control      over airports
than is presently  provided and that this control      cannot be
accomplished through the agency's existing     inspection      programs.
You recommend that          the Secretary           [See GA0 not-.]

                                 take action to permit the FAA
Administrator    to implement an airport         safety inspection        program.
You also recommend that based upon information                derived from such
a -program, the FM Administrator          establish     controls    over airport
safety similar     to those exercised      over aircraft        and airmen, and
develop appropriate      regulations     and procedures       to implement these
controls    under the existing      enforcement     authority     available    to
FAA.
As you know, the Airport        and Airway Development Act of 1970,
recently    passed by the Congress, requires         a certification    program
for airports      serving carriers,    and clarifies    the requirement
for certification       before an airport   may serve air carriers.
Accordingly,  we intend to implement the legislation           by establish-
ing an appropriate      airport  safety   inspection  program and prescrib-
ing minimum safety standards        for the operation    of airports   serving
air carriers   certificated     by the Civil Aeronautics     Board.


                                               23
                                                                                                            .
 APPENDIX I
        Page   2                                                                                        .
,:e will also initiate        a program of additional        surveillance                          of
general  aviation     airports.       Should this    program     indicate                       that
minimum mandatory      standards      are necessary,     we will      take                    the
steps necessary     to institute       them.

Thank   you    for   this   opportunity        to   comment   on your       draft             report.

                                               Sincerely,




GAO note:      Refers  to information           contained     in draft          report
               but deleted in final            report.




                                                                         U.S.   GAO   W-h.,     D.C.

                                          24
                                                               APPENDIX II


                            PRINCIPAL OFFICIALS OF THE

                           DEPARTMENTOF TRANSPORTATION

                          RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ACTIVITIES

                             DISCUSSED IN THIS REPORT


                                                   Tenure of office
                                                   From            To
                                                                   -
                           DEPARTMENTOF TRANSPORTATION

SECRETARYOF TRANSPORTATION:
   John A. Volpe                                Jan.    1969    Present
   Alan S. Boyd                                 Apr.    1967    Dec. 1968

                         FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION

ADMINISTRATOR:
   John H. Shaffer                              Mar.    1969   Present
    David D. Thomas (acting)                    Aug.    1968   Mar. 1969
    General William F. McKee                    July    1965   July    1968
ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR
  OPERATION'S:
    George S. Moore                             Apr.    1967    Present
    Arvin 0. Basnight                           July    1965    Apr.    1967

DIRECTOR, AIRPORTS SERVICE:
    Chester G. Bowers                           Jan.  1967      Present
    Chester G. Bowers (acting)                  Nov. 1966       Jan.    1967
    Cole H. Morrow                              Nov e 1961      Nov. 1966
DIRECTOR9 FLIGHT STANDARDSSERVICE:
    James F. Rudolph                            act D   1967    Present
    James F. Rudolph (acting)                   June    1967    Oct.    1967
    Clifford W. Walker                          Apr.    1966    June 1967
    George S. Moore                             Apr.    1963    Apr.    1966




K.-x GAO, hik.,   D.C.

                                          25
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