SAN ANTONIO -- The government is spending millions on new windows and doors to keep noise down at homes near airports, but a recent report uncovered a problem with the system that's costing taxpayers millions.
When Bob and Linda Smith bought their house 25 years ago, airplanes from San Antonio International Airport used a different runway and were not flying overhead, but that changed.
"We can tell you when a cold front comes in because they reverse the pattern. And when they take off over us," said Bob Smith. "It's extremely loud and that's when the windows rattle."
The Smiths applied for a federally funded program offering free renovations that would make their house quieter, but they were denied because they lived outside the lines of what's called a "noise exposure map."
According to a recent report by the General Accounting Office, or GAO, airports across the country have not been updating those maps every five years as required, which means a lot of people are qualifying for money who may not be eligible.
Director of Civil Aviation Issues Gerald Dillingham says they found at least nine airports were using outdated noise maps.
"We spent several millions of dollars and we don't know whether those were in fact where we should have been spending it or whether they were eligible or not," said Dillingham.
The GAO found two things. First, The FAA was not tying funding to actual reduction of noise levels inside homes. Second, the current amount of funding may not be needed because newer planes are quieter.
So, have hard-earned tax dollars been flying out the window?
"Yes, it was clearly in the millions," said Dillingham.
The money is spent to install things like thicker doors or custom-made window frames that absorb airport noise, but the GAO says exactly how much money is being wasted is unclear.
"Because of the way FAA keeps the records, or because of the way they didn't keep the records, it was hard for us to get the full picture of to what extent there might be those situations where we weren't getting the bang for the buck that we actually should be getting," said Dillingham.
San Antonio's current airport noise maps were adopted in 2009, so they have been updated within the last five years as required.
As for officials with the Federal Aviation Administration, they did not respond to News 4 San Antonio's request for comment on their mistake.
According to the GAO report, the FAA has made changes to fix the problems, which is good to hear since another $2 billion is set aside for this program.