Audit Reports

March 03, 2009

Actions Taken and Needed to Improve FAA's Runway Safety Area Program

Project ID: AV-2009-039


On March 3, 2009, we issued our report on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Runway Safety Area (RSA) Program. Specifically, we assessed airport sponsors’ and FAA’s progress and challenges in fulfilling the congressional mandate to improve 454 RSAs by 2015. Overall, we found that there has been significant progress since 2000–with the Agency reporting improvements for more than 70 percent of the 454 RSAs. FAA has also been generally effective in identifying, prioritizing, and funding needed RSA improvements. However, FAA still faces major challenges (i.e., man–made, natural, environmental, and legal) in improving several RSAs, including those at 11 of the Nation’s 30 largest airports. Moreover, FAA needs to focus on modifying or removing non–standard navigation aids in RSAs, including some that pose considerable safety risks to aircraft and their passengers if struck during a runway overrun. Another key focus area for FAA is improving the quality of its RSA data. Ultimately, this will enhance FAA’s annual RSA report to Congress, which currently does not provide sufficient detail for decision makers on completed or needed RSA improvements. Our recommendations to FAA focus on (1) developing a plan to improve RSAs at 11 airports to the fullest extent practical; (2) developing and implementing a program to remove or modify non–standard navigation aids located in RSAs; (3) issuing detailed guidance to and conducting training for staff who identify, track, and report the status of RSAs; (4) implementing quality control procedures to ensure the accuracy and integrity of RSA data; and (5) expanding the annual report to Congress to better reflect the true status of RSA improvement activities.