Airports are responsible for mitigating the effects of aircraft noise in surrounding communities. The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airport Improvement Program (AIP)—one of DOT’s largest grant programs—awards over $3 billion a year to grantees, including commercial and general aviation airports. These grants support projects that improve safety and security, reduce congestion, and help fund the costs of mitigating noise and other environmental effects. Between fiscal years 2005 and 2020, AIP awarded $2.2 billion in grants for land acquisition, including land for airport development and for purposes compatible with noise levels associated with airport operations..
In a previous audit, we found that FAA and AIP grantees inconsistently applied grant requirements and Agency policies on regulating the disposal of noise land purchased with AIP grants. For example, grantees had AIP-funded noise land that either was no longer required for such purposes or did not have documented plans to use the land for airport development. Moreover, while grantees disposed of some unneeded noise land, several could not use the proceeds or did not document that they used all proceeds in accordance with grant requirements. As a result, we recommended that FAA develop and implement plans to recover approximately $242 million from airport grantees’ disposal proceeds.
Given the Agency’s large investments for land acquisitions since our 2005 report, we are initiating an audit to assess FAA’s oversight of land that grantees acquire with AIP grants for noise compatibility. This audit will include a focus on the Agency’s processes for determining (1) whether grantees identify land they no longer need for noise compatibility and (2) whether the grantees dispose of such land in accordance with Federal regulations and FAA policy.