Use of the National Airspace System (NAS)
On March 3, 2008 we issued our report on use of the National Airspace System (NAS). Our audit was conducted at the request of Representative John L. Mica, then Chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee. Our specific objectives were to determine: (1) how different groups use NAS elements, (2) how that usage contributes to aviation congestion, (3) whether NAS users can be grouped in a meaningful manner based on their usage of the system, and (4) how good a proxy is jet fuel for use of FAA air traffic services.
We found that air carriers and non-air carriers, including general aviation and business jet operators, all make sufficient use of the NAS so as to materially contribute to FAA's costs and congestion in general. We also found alternative NAS user groupings that are more homogeneous in terms of their use of FAA services than the groupings reflected in the current aviation excise tax structure. Finally, we found that jet fuel consumption is a better proxy for the use of the NAS than the current aviation excise taxes, but it does not measure whether air traffic control services are used, nor does it distinguish between the types and complexities of services used.
We also testified on March 21, 2007, before the House Aviation Subcommittee on this subject and other issues related to reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.