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Audit Says Agency Has Lost Count of Government Planes

April 3, 1992

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The agency that manages federal aircraft has lost track of how many civilian planes the government has and what they’re used for, investigators at the agency have discovered.

The inspector general’s office of the General Services Administration unearthed 237 federal aircraft unknown to the GSA by checking Federal Aviation Administration records, according to the report, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

In addition, the auditors located 31 aircraft registered to four agencies that never told the GSA that they owned any aircraft.

The inspectors also discovered FAA records showing 152 aircraft owned by state and local governments that the GSA believes belong to federal agencies.

″GSA’s aircraft inventory is not current, accurate or complete,″ said the interim report, dated March 26. It had been requested in November by Sen. James Sasser, D-Tenn.

He made the study available at a time when Congress and the Bush administration are engaged in an election-year duel over which branch has more excessive taxpayer-financed perquisites and privileges.

In a letter to GSA Inspector General William Barton on Thursday, Sasser wrote, ″Needless to say, GSA cannot ensure the efficient use of aircraft that, according to its own records, do not even exist.″

The auditors tacitly agreed with Sasser, writing that because of the GSA’s incomplete inventory of its fleet, ″any management decisions ... based on this information could be flawed.″

Spokeswoman Kathryn Gaddy of the GSA said her agency was trying to upgrade its records. She said it was up to individual agencies to use their own planes most efficiently.

″We’ve got a ways to go,″ she said. ″We admit that. We’re working on that.″

The investigators also said that data is so scattered they do not know when the audit can be completed.

″Every effort will be made to keep this period to a minimum,″ Barton wrote Sasser on March 31.

The report said that according to the GSA’s most recent figures - which are 18 months old and tentative - the government has 1,315 non-military aircraft.

Twelve agencies own aircraft, which include helicopters, fire fighting and weather-research planes, and jet fighters used by NASA for astronaut training. Some of the craft were bought in 1945.

The report also found that:

-Because federal aircraft are not subject to most FAA standards, there are no requirements that pilots be licensed or medically fit to fly, or that aircraft be well-maintained, inspected and operated within their physical limits.

-99 of the aircraft ″appeared to be under-utilized″ in 1989 because each was used for less than 100 hours that year.

-An estimated 10 percent of the aircraft are suitable for ″comfortable passenger travel.″ But the auditors added, ″Whether aircraft are used for other than the stated mission is unknown at this time.″

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