FAA History: 1930’s

Thursday, January 16, 1930:Frank Whittle, a British Royal Air Force officer and engineer, received a patent for his design of a turbojet aircraft engine. Manufacture of an experimental version of the engine began in 1936. On May 15, 1941, the Gloster E28/39, a British turbojet powered by a Whittle W/X jet engine, made its first official flight, at Cranwell, England. However, this first Allied jet flight came nearly two years after Germany had accomplished the feat. On August 27, 1939, the first air-breathing jet flight of an aircraft had occurred, accomplished by a German Heinkel He 178 aircraft with a jet engine by designed by Hans von Ohain.
Saturday, January 25, 1930:An amendment to the Air Commerce Regulations set 500 feet as the minimum altitude at which aircraft might fly, except when landing and taking off.
Saturday, January 25, 1930:American Airways was formed out of a group of carriers that had operated separately under the Aviation Corporation (AVCO), a holding company chartered on March 3, 1929. American Airways changed its name to American Airlines on April 11, 1934.
Saturday, February 1, 1930:The Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics terminated its activities. Established in January 1926 to support the development of American aviation in its formative years, the fund had promoted aeronautical education, subsidized research projects, and assisted efforts to develop commercial aircraft. Daniel Guggenheim intended that the fund be closed when private enterprise would find it “practicable and profitable to carry on.”
Saturday, February 15, 1930:The Aeronautics Branch announced that it had issued the first rating under the Airport Rating Regulations to the municipal airport at Pontiac, Mich. The airport received the highest possible rating, A-1-A. The designation system enabled pilots to know at a glance what facilities to expect at any of the rated airports, which the Branch inspected in response to voluntary applications by airport operators. The program was part of the Aeronautics Branch’s efforts to encourage airport development through promotional activities, disseminating technical and statistical information, and giving expert advice to municipalities.
Wednesday, March 26, 1930:The Aeronautics Branch issued the first two approved repair station certificates to Boeing Air Transport of Oakland, CA, and National Air Transport of Chicago, IL. The certificate entitled a station to repair only aircraft of types for which it was adequately equipped. Previously, anyone making repairs on licensed aircraft had been obliged to submit to the Branch detailed drawings of the repairs made and, in some cases, a stress analysis. By mid-1931, the Aeronautics Branch had certificated forty-eight repair stations.
Tuesday, April 29, 1930:The Watres Act further amended the Air Mail Act of 1925 (see May 17, 1928), replacing the weight basis for computing compensation to air carriers with a space-mile formula. The new act gave the Postmaster General very broad regulatory control over route locations, route consolidations and extensions, contract bidding conditions, service conditions, equipment and personnel accounts, and compensation. (See May 19, 1930.)
Monday, May 5, 1930:The Post Office Department, hoping to stimulate air passenger traffic, issued an order calling for the installation of at least two passenger seats in each mail plane operated by day.
Thursday, May 15, 1930:Boeing Air Transport inaugurated the first airline stewardess service. The first stewardess was a registered nurse, Ellen E. Church, who has been described as the first female crew member aboard a commercial airliner.
Thursday, May 15, 1930: In regulations effective on this date, the Department of Commerce required airlines to obtain a certificate of authority to operate if they engaged in interstate passenger service. To qualify, an airline was required to demonstrate that it possessed aircraft that were properly equipped and maintained, a sufficient number of qualified airmen, and an adequate ground organization for the services provided. The routes served were required to possess such air navigation facilities as the Department deemed necessary for safe and reliable operations. Airlines were required to apply for the certificate by July 15, a deadline later extended to August 15, 1930.
Monday, May 19, 1930:Postmaster General Walter Folger Brown held the first of a series of meetings with representatives of the large commercial airlines to discuss air mail routes to be awarded under the Watres Act (see April 29, 1930). All but two of the twenty-two air mail contracts awarded under the act went to airlines in attendance at the meetings, which were subsequently attacked as “spoils conferences.” (See February 9, 1934.)
Friday, June 20, 1930:Aeronautics Branch certificated its first glider, the Detroit Gull, Model G-1.
Tuesday, July 1, 1930:Rules governing the use of intermediate landing fields and a parachute supplement to the Air Commerce Regulations went into effect.
Saturday, July 19, 1930:Incorporation action took place as a first step in the merger of Transcontinental Air Transport and Western Air Express to form Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA), which later changed its name to Trans World Airlines on May 17, 1950. Western Air Express, meanwhile, had retained its corporate identity on some routes and evolved into Western Airlines, a name it adopted in 1941.
Wednesday, September 10, 1930:The Taylor E-2 Cub made its first flight. This design evolved into the famous Piper Cub, which was introduced in 1938 and became one of the world’s most popular general aviation airplanes.
Saturday, October 25, 1930:The first all-air transcontinental through passenger service to link coastal cities began. Aircraft of Transcontinental and Western Air took off simultaneously from Newark Airport, serving New York, and from Los Angeles. On October 15, the American Airways system had begun to offer all-air service between Atlanta and Los Angeles.
Tuesday, December 16, 1930:The Aeronautics Branch opened the National Conference on Uniform Aeronautic Regulatory Laws. Representatives from 45 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, and the Philippine Islands attended the two-day meeting to discuss uniformity of air regulations. (See August 1, 1928, and March 23, 1933.)
Wednesday, December 31, 1930:Airworthiness regulations for aircraft components and accessories became effective.
Calendar Year 1930:By this year, Cleveland Municipal Airport had established radio control of airport traffic. In the next five years approximately 20 cities followed Cleveland’s lead.
Thursday, February 12, 1931:An amendment to existing regulations covering interstate airline operations required a copilot on all aircraft flying a schedule of five or more hours with eight or more passengers. (See October 1, 1931.)
Thursday, February 12, 1931:The Department of Commerce placed the radio range beacon at Medicine Bow, WY, into continuous operation, completing the directional radio marking of the entire route from San Francisco to New York.
Friday, February 20, 1931:The Senate ratified the Havana Convention in which 21 Western Hemisphere nations guaranteed the right of innocent passage of aircraft without discrimination. The Convention formulated the rules for international air navigation between the contracting states relating to the marking of aircraft, landing facilities, prohibited transport, competency of airmen, and the right of each country to prescribe the route to be flown over its territory. The Convention had been prepared at the Pan American Convention on Civil Aviation at Havana, Cuba, in February 1928.
Tuesday, March 31, 1931:A Fokker F-10A operated by Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA) crashed near Bazaar, KS. The accident killed all eight persons aboard, including Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne. After an investigation disclosed defective wing construction, the Aeronautics Branch took the F-10A out of passenger service on May 4. Although most of the grounded planes eventually returned to service, the loss of public confidence and the costly periodic inspection required by the Aeronautics Branch led to the demise of the once popular airplane.
June 23-July 1, 1931: With Harold Gatty as navigator, Wiley Post piloted a Lockheed Vega dubbed Winnie Mae around the world, flying from Roosevelt Field, NY, and back with eight stopovers. Post’s course took him near the Arctic Circle, and his distance of 15,447 miles was too short to qualify as a round-the-world flight as defined by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. His time of 8 days 15 hours 51 minutes was nevertheless far below the record set by the Graf Zepplin (see August 8-29, 1929), and he received great popular acclaim. During July 15-22, 1933, Post flew Winnie Mae in what is often regarded as the first solo flight around the world. He traveled from Floyd Bennett Field, NY and back in 7 days 18 hours 49 minutes, following a course similar to his 1931 trip. (See July 10-14, 1938.)
Tuesday, June 30, 1931: During the fiscal year that ended on this date, the Aeronautics Branch established an Engineering Section branch office at Los Angeles to expedite the examination and approval of aircraft types. The office was created to allow owners and manufacturers in the West the same opportunity for contact with engineering officials as the main office in Washington provided east of the Rockies.
Wednesday, July 1, 1931:United Air Lines was formally established as a management company coordinating four component air carriers that had already begun operating as a single entity. United was one of domestic aviation’s “Big Four,” which also included Eastern Air Transport, American Airways, and Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA).
Monday, July 27, 1931:A convention of “Key Men” involved in organizing the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) voted for affiliation with the American Federation of Labor. On August 10, the AF of L formally granted affiliation to ALPA, which became the largest union representing airline pilots. ALPA’s presidents and the dates of their election were: David L. Behncke, 1931; Clarence N. Sayen, 1952; Charles H. Ruby, 1962; John J. O’Donnell, 1970; Henry A. Duffy, 1982; and J. Randolph Babbitt, 1990.
Saturday, August 29, 1931:Tests begun this day and continued through April 8, 1932, showed that transmission of weather maps over the teletypewriter circuits of the Federal Airways System was practicable. Using an experimental circuit, the Aeronautics Branch tested equipment and procedures by sending maps three times daily from compilers in Cleveland and Kansas City to facilities in New York, Washington, and Chicago. Map transmission required equipment that printed on pages rather than on the usual tape, but page-type and tape-type machines could operate on the same circuits. On December 1, 1932, the Aeronautics Branch inaugurated regular transmission of U.S. Weather Bureau weather maps via teletypewriter circuits to 78 U.S. air terminals. Six times daily, the service provided a complete weather map of the United States, divided into three sections.
Saturday, September 5, 1931:The first instrument landing by a system incorporating a glide path was made at College Park, MD. The glide path was achieved by aligning an inclined radio beam with the runway, providing a path approximating the gliding angle of an airplane. (See September 24, 1929.)
Thursday, October 1, 1931:The Department of Commerce promulgated a regulation prescribing a cockpit crew complement of two, a pilot and copilot, on all scheduled air transports capable of carrying fifteen or more passengers or having a gross takeoff weight of 15,000 pounds or more. (See February 12, 1931, and November 1, 1937.)
October 3-5, 1931:Clyde E. Pangborn and Hugh Herndon, Jr., made the first nonstop transpacific flight, as well as the first nonstop flight between Japan and the United States, in a Bellanca Pacemaker. The two men took off from Samushiro Beach, 300 miles north of Tokyo, and landed at Wenatchee, WA, covering 4,448 miles in 41 hours 13 minutes.
Sunday, November 1, 1931:The Aeronautics Branch established a branch office of its medical section at Kansas City, MO, to keep medical examiners of the Middle Western states in close touch with Commerce Department policies on medical requirements and examinations.
Friday, January 1, 1932:The first Air Commerce Regulations governing gliders and gliding became effective.
Monday, May 16, 1932:The official Air Commerce Bulletin published a rule providing for a new scheduled air transport pilot rating. Those receiving the rating had to demonstrate their ability to use airway navigation aids and to fly specified maneuvers guided entirely by instruments. Effective January 1, 1933, the Aeronautics Branch required the new rating for all pilots on scheduled interstate passenger service. To meet this deadline, 330 pilots obtained the rating by the end of 1932. Fifty years later, on December 31, 1982, the estimated number of certificated airline transport pilots was 73,741.
May 21-22, 1932:Amelia Earhart became the first woman to make a solo crossing of the Atlantic by airplane, flying from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, to Londonderry, Northern Ireland, in a Lockheed Vega.
Thursday, June 30, 1932: During the fiscal year that ended this date, the first two installations of a new type of radio marker beacon were completed and placed in experimental operation — one at Archbold, Ohio, and one at Sidney, Nebraska. Sixteen others were ready for installation. Known as class B radio markers, or as radio landing ranges, these new radio marker beacons had 50-watt transmitters equipped with loop antennas, which permitted operation as short-range radio range beacons. They were also equipped for telephone as well as for automatic code transmission. In contrast to the Class A, 7.5-watt sets, which had a voice range of 5 to 10 miles, the 50-watt sets had a range of 30 to 40 miles. Class B marker beacons serve primarily to mark intermediate landing fields and to furnish, upon request, information on landing and weather conditions.
Saturday, July 2, 1932:Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first U.S. presidential candidate to fly when he chartered a Ford Trimotor from Albany to Chicago to address the Democratic National Convention. (See January 14, 1943.)
Calendar Year 1932:The Aeronautics Branch created the first formal system for the flight inspection of U.S. airway navigation aids by assigning six pilots to regular airway patrol duty. Operating from Airway Patrol Headquarters offices in six widely dispersed cities, the pilots were each responsible for 3,000-3,500 miles of airway. The early flight inspection fleet is believed to have included five Bellanca Pacemakers, a Curtiss-Wright Sedan-15, several Stearman C-3Bs, and three Stinson SM-8As. Beginning in 1937, the remaining five aircraft of this original fleet were replaced by Stinson SR-8B Reliants and some SR-9E Reliants. (See Calendar Year 1940.)
Wednesday, February 8, 1933:The Boeing 247 first flew. Often considered the first modern airliner, this single-wing airplane of all-metal construction was powered by two Pratt & Whitney Wasp air-cooled radial engines. It had a gross takeoff weight of 12,650 pounds and accommodated 10 passengers. The Aeronautics Branch type-certificated the plane on March 16, 1933, and it entered scheduled airline service on March 30, 1933.
Wednesday, March 1, 1933:At the Newark Municipal Airport, NJ, the Aeronautics Branch demonstrated a radio system that it had developed for the blind landing of aircraft. The Branch made the system available for service testing by aircraft equipped with the necessary radio receivers. Later that month, Aeronautics Branch pilot James L. Kinney completed the first cross-country test of an all instrument flight and landing when he arrived at Newark from College Park, MD Kinney was accompanied by Harry Diamond, a Bureau of Standards scientist who helped develop the instrument landing system, and William LaViolette, a radio technician. (See September 13, 1934.)
Thursday, March 2, 1933:A regulatory amendment announced on this date increased the solo flying time required for a private pilot’s license from 10 to 50 hours. Holders of private pilot licenses had until June 1, 1933, to meet the new requirement. The amendment also abolished grade of industrial pilot and created the new grade of solo pilot. Students with 10 hours of flying time who passed specified tests could qualify for this grade. (See August 15, 1933).
Saturday, March 4, 1933:Franklin D. Roosevelt became President, succeeding Herbert C. Hoover.
Thursday, March 23, 1933:Enactment of legislation by the State of Georgia meant that all of the 48 States had laws dealing with aeronautics (see August 1, 1928, and March 1946). Georgia’s new law included a requirement that all airmen and aircraft operating within the state have Federal licenses. This provision was included in most, but not all, of the other state aeronautical laws (see December 1, 1941).
Tuesday, March 28, 1933:The Aeronautics Branch gave permission to aircraft engine manufacturers to conduct endurance tests on their own equipment. Before this date, manufacturers seeking a type certificate for new engines had to ship them to the Bureau of Standards, in Washington, DC, for endurance testing.
Thursday, March 30, 1933:The Sikorsky S-42, a four-engine flying boat designed for Pan American Airways, made its first flight. The S-42, which entered scheduled service on August 16, 1934, weighed over 20 tons, and could carry 32 passengers and a full load for a distance of 750 miles. (See April 28, 1937.)
Tuesday, May 23, 1933:Clarence M. Young resigned as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics, effective June 15. (See June 10, 1933.)
Saturday, June 10, 1933:President Roosevelt issued an order changing the designation and broadening the duties of the Commerce Department’s Assistant Secretary for Aeronautics, effective 61 days from this date. The position was given the simpler title of Assistant Secretary of Commerce and made responsible for bureaus dealing with surface transportation as well as air transportation. A second Assistant Secretary had charge of bureaus dealing with trade and industry.
On June 15, the position of Director of Aeronautics became head of the Aeronautics Branch. (For earlier use of this same title, see entries for July 1, 1927, and November 1929.) The Director was to be assisted by three new Assistant Directors in charge of the divisions of Air Regulation, Airways, and Aeronautic Development.
On June 16, the President announced the appointment of Ewing Y. Mitchell to be the Assistant Secretary of Commerce responsible for transportation, and also named the three Assistant Directors of Aeronautics. The Director of Aeronautics position remained vacant until September 19, 1933 (see that date).
Friday, June 30, 1933: During the fiscal year that ended this date, substitution began of a new T-L antenna for the old loop antenna used to transmit radio range beacon signals to guide airmen flying through conditions of poor visibility. The new antenna satisfactorily disposed of the problem of night errors associated with the loop antenna. By the fiscal year’s end, six of the T-L antennas were in operation, 38 were about to be placed in service, and equipment was available for installation at six additional sites.
Remote control of radio aids to air navigation also began during the fiscal year. Heretofore, operators of such aids were located on the premises of each radio facility. Since the facilities were far removed from the air terminals, owing to the hazard radio towers posed to aircraft, the operators seldom came into personal contact with the people they served. Installation of remote control enabled them to be located in the teletypewriter station, operating airways radio broadcasting stations and the radio beacon transmitters by means of a dial switch and leased telephone lines. This centralization of control and close contact with the flying public promoted efficiency and reduced operating and maintenance costs. By the end of June 1933, three remote control installations had been completed. The equipment for 63 additional stations had been purchased and delivered for installation.
Saturday, July 1, 1933:The Commerce Department’s Aeronautics Branch assumed sole responsibility for constructing and maintaining airways, ending the arrangement under which the Airways Division was structurally part of the Bureau of Lighthouses. Under the Aeronautics Branch, the number of districts in which this function was organized was reduced from eight to six.
Saturday, July 1, 1933:The Douglas DC-1, a forerunner of the famed DC-3, made its first flight. Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA) purchased the only one of these monoplanes built by Douglas. The DC-2, an improved version of the DC-1, made its maiden flight on May 11, 1934, and promptly went into service with TWA. CAA type-certificated the plane on June 29, 1934.
Tuesday, August 15, 1933:The Aeronautics Branch announced the abolition of solo pilot licenses and gave the solo flying privileges of that license to student pilots. The change was part of the Branch’s response to curtailed appropriations. (See September 15, 1933.) The Aeronautics Branch also announced that it now required airlines to make detailed reports of all forced landings experienced on interstate scheduled passenger flights. Previously airlines had been requested only to report the number of forced landings.
Tuesday, August 1, 1933:The first practical variable-pitch propeller, developed by Frank W. Caldwell of Hamilton Standard Propeller Company in 1930, was introduced into airline service, on a Curtiss Condor biplane. The new propeller improved the propulsive efficiency of modern aircraft with highly supercharged engines, giving them more thrust than a fixed-pitch propeller when taking off and permitting adjustment to a more efficient setting for flight at different altitudes and speeds.
Friday, September 15, 1933:The Aeronautics Branch announced in the Air Commerce Bulletin a streamlining plan for the Air Regulation Service aimed at saving $500,000 in the current fiscal year. The plan: reduced the number of inspection districts from nine to eight; cut personnel in the Service by fifteen percent; generally required applicants to travel to inspection locations as opposed to inspectors traveling from airport to airport; placed fourteen Department of Commerce aircraft in storage; closed an aircraft maintenance base; and completely segregated airline inspection, licensing, and regulation services. The Aeronautics Branch also announced that the wattage of rotating beacon lights would be cut in half for an annual savings of about $75,000.
Tuesday, September 19, 1933:President Roosevelt appointed Eugene L. Vidal head of the Aeronautics Branch with the title of Director of Aeronautics (see June 10, 1933). Vidal was educated at the University of South Dakota and at West Point. Graduating from the latter institution in 1918, he served in the Army Corps of Engineers for two years before transferring to the Air Service and becoming a pilot. In 1926 he resigned his commission to take a position with a commercial aviation company. He continued in commercial aviation until he joined the Aeronautics Branch as Assistant Director of Aeronautics for Air Regulation in June 1933 (see February 28, 1937). With Vidal’s appointment as Director, the post of Assistant Director for Aeronautic Development was abolished and the number of Assistant Directors was reduced to two: the Assistant Director for Air Navigation and the Assistant Director for Air Regulation. All the principal functions of the Branch were divided between these two officials. Only the Administrative Section and the Aeronautic Information Section reported directly to the Director.
Tuesday, October 24, 1933:In an unprecedented feat for air transports, a Douglas DC-2 and a Boeing 247D finished second and third in a field of twenty in the MacRobertson International Air Race. The 18,500 pound DC-2 negotiated the course from Mildenhall, England, to Melbourne, Australia, in 90 hours 13 minutes. It finished 19 hours 41 minutes behind the first place finisher, a de Havilland DH-88 Comet, a long-range twin-engine racer designed expressly for the competition. Even more remarkable, the Douglas carried three revenue passengers and 900 pounds of mail and made 18 stops along a doglegged course approximately 1,000 miles longer than that flown by the Comet. The superiority of American transports over those of British or European manufacture was demonstrated by advanced design features such as NACA cowls, all-metal stressed-skin construction, light-alloy fuselage, a single low wing, retractable landing gear, and variable pitch propellers.
Wednesday, November 8, 1933:Director of Aeronautics Vidal announced a plan to make low-priced aircraft available for widespread private ownership. Vidal followed his announcement with a survey that indicated strong consumer interest in a plane priced at about $700. On December 28, the Public Works Administration (PWA) announced that $500,000 had been set aside for the development of such an airplane. U.S. aircraft manufacturers denounced the plan as unrealistic, however, and the PWA funds never materialized. The “Poor Man’s Airplane” project collapsed, but the Department of Commerce continued to promote development of affordable aircraft. (See July 19, 1934.)
Friday, November 24, 1933:The Aeronautics Branch announced an airport development program to be undertaken in cooperation with the Civil Works Administration. Since one purpose of the program was to provide work immediately to the unemployed, the Branch urged municipalities wishing to acquire landing fields to apply within the next two weeks. (See April 15, 1934.)
Thursday, December 7, 1933:Regulatory amendments effective this date included a provision that persons under 21 years of age were required to obtain the consent of parents or guardians before receiving any type of pilot license (see May 1, 1967). The amendments also created a new amateur pilot license requiring only 25 hours of solo flying time, compared to 50 hours then needed for a private license. The new grade, which was subsequently discontinued, was intended for personal and pleasure flying.
Wednesday, December 20, 1933:The Martin M-130 made its first flight. CAA type-certificated this four-engine, transoceanic flying boat designed for Pan American Airways, on October 9, 1935. The aircraft began service with Pan American on November 22, 1935.
Tuesday, February 6, 1934:A new Inter-Departmental Advisory Committee on Aviation met to study the establishment of a uniform Federal aviation policy. The Committee consisted of representatives of the Departments of Commerce, War, Navy, and the Post Office, plus the Interstate Commerce Commission.
Friday, February 9, 1934:Postmaster General James A. Farley, carrying out the wishes of President Roosevelt, announced the cancellation of all existing air mail contracts, effective midnight, February 19, 1934. His action followed disclosures made by a special Senate investigating committee chaired by Senator Hugo L. Black (D-AL) and investigations made by Farley himself. The general basis for cancellation of the airmail contracts was the charge that competitive bidding had been bypassed and contract awards had been made as a result of collusion in a series of conferences of operators with Postmaster General Walter Folger Brown (see May 19, 1930). The following day, noting that the air mail contracts had been canceled and that the continuing need for air mail service had created an emergency, President Roosevelt issued an Executive order directing the Secretary of War to make available the planes and pilots necessary to carry the air mail during the emergency. In response to the President’s Executive Order, the Army Air Corps began carrying the airmail when the contracts expired. (See March 10, 1934.)
Friday, February 23, 1934:The Lockheed Electra L-10 first flew. On August 10, the Bureau of Air Commerce type-certificated the aircraft, which featured twin fins and rudders. Scheduled airline service with the L-10 began on August 11, 1934.
Saturday, March 10, 1934:President Roosevelt ordered temporary curtailment of air mail service by the Army Air Corps (see February 9, 1934) after accidents had taken the lives of ten Army fliers, four on the mail routes and six in related flying (training exercises and ferrying personnel). On March 19, the Air Corps resumed carrying the mail on reduced schedules. On May 8, mail service by commercial air companies began again on certain routes. Pending new air mail legislation, the companies operated under temporary, three-month contracts, renewable for three months (see June 12, 1934). The Air Corps’s participation was phased out, and its last scheduled mail flight was June 1, 1934.
Monday, March 26, 1934:Senator Pat McCarran (D-NV), a member of the Black Committee (see February 9, 1934), introduced a Senate bill (S. 3187) as a substitute for the bill that was to become the Air Mail Act of 1934 (see June 12, 1934). McCarran’s bill, defeated in the Senate, provided for the creation of a “Federal Aviation Commission” to carry out the economic regulation of scheduled air carrier operations. The bill had no provision to repeal any existing laws and none relating to air safety. (See January 21, 1935.) This was the first of a series of bills Senator McCarran was to introduce to create an independent aviation regulatory agency. His efforts, along with those of Representative Clarence Lea (D-CA) in the House (see January 31, 1935) and others, finally bore fruit in the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938.
Sunday, April 15, 1934:Airport development with Federal aid was transferred to the Federal Emergency Relief Administration for completion of projects started under the Civil Works Administration. (See November 24, 1933.)
Tuesday, April 17, 1934: As a result of recent developments connected with flying the air mail (see March 10, 1934), the Secretary of War appointed the Baker Committee to report on “the operation of the Army Air Corps and the adequacy and efficiency of its technical flying equipment and training for the performance of its mission in peace and in war.” Named for its chairman, former Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, the committee was composed of six civilian and five military members. It was directed to include in its report a study of the proper relationship between the Army and civil aviation. (See July 18, 1934.)
Tuesday, June 12, 1934:The President signed the Air Mail Act of 1934 into law (see February 9, 1934). The principal provisions were:
  • Contracts were to be awarded for an initial period of one year; if the contractor performed satisfactorily during that time, the contract could be extended indefinitely. Existing three-month contracts could be extended by the Postmaster General for a period or periods not exceeding a total extension of nine months (see March 10, 1934, and August 14, 1935).
  • The Interstate Commerce Commission was brought into the administration of air law for the first time. The Commission was required to fix fair and reasonable rates of compensation for each route, within the upper limit prescribed in the act, which linked rates to airplane miles, with a sliding scale of increases based on load. Rates were to be reviewed at least annually. The commission had authority upon 60 days notice and hearing to terminate any contract that had been extended beyond the initial period.
  • The Postmaster General and the Interstate Commerce Commission were authorized to regulate the accounting practices of the carriers.
  • Air mail contractors were prohibited, after December 31, 1934, from holding an interest in any other aviation enterprise except landing fields and appurtenances thereto. Conversely, other aviation enterprises were prohibited from holding any interest in air mail contracts.
  • Contractors were prohibited from employing any person in a managerial capacity who had entered into any unlawful combination to prevent air mail bidding. Each bidder for a contract was required to furnish the Postmaster General a list of all stockholders owning more that 5 percent of the bidder’s capital stock, a financial statement, and, in the case of a corporation, the original amount paid to the corporation for its stock.
  • The Secretary of Commerce was to specify the speed, load capacity, and safety features of equipment to be used on each air mail route, and to regulate the hours and benefits of pilots and mechanics.
  • The President was authorized to appoint a commission of five members “for the purpose of making an immediate study and survey and to report to Congress not later than February 1, 1935, its recommendations of a broad policy covering all phases of aviation and the relation of the United States thereto.” (See July 11, 1934.)
  • The National Labor Board’s Decision 83, which, among other things, set a maximum flying time of 85 hours per month for airline pilots, was imposed on air mail carriers. The Board had handed down Decision 83 on May 10, 1934, but its provisions had not possessed the force of law. Later, the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 applied Decision 83 to all interstate air carriers. (See April 29, 1942).
Tuesday, June 19, 1934:An amendment to the Air Commerce Act of 1926 gave the Aeronautics Branch stronger authority to investigate civil aircraft accidents. The amendment empowered the Secretary of Commerce or his representative to subpoena witnesses to testify or produce documentary evidence at public hearings into the causes of such accidents. If the accident involved a fatality or serious injury, the Secretary was required to issue a statement of the probable cause. In other cases, issuance of such a statement was left to the Secretary’s discretion. The amendment also gave the Secretary additional safety-rulemaking powers. (See October 1, 1934.)
Sunday, July 1, 1934:The name of the Aeronautics Branch was changed to Bureau of Air Commerce. At the same time, the title of the Director of Aeronautics was changed to Director of Air Commerce. The new name more accurately reflected the duties of the organization, which enjoyed the status of a bureau but had not been so designated. Also by this date there were no longer any major aeronautical functions that were structurally part of other Commerce Department bureaus.
Wednesday, July 11, 1934:The Federal Aviation Commission, appointed by President Roosevelt in accordance with section 20 of the Air Mail Act of 1934 (see June 12, 1934), held its first meeting. The members were: Clark Howell, editor in chief of the Atlanta Constitution and a member of the National Transportation Committee of 1932; Edward P. Warner, a leading aeronautical engineer and the former first Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Aeronautics; Albert J. Berres, a labor relations expert; Jerome C. Hunsaker, a former naval officer with executive experience in civil aviation business enterprises; and Franklin K. Lane, a lawyer with both Army and Navy aviation experience. The Commission’s Secretary was J. Carroll Cone, Director of Air Regulation, Bureau of Air Commerce. The Commission’s assignment was to make “an immediate study and survey” and to recommend “a broad policy covering all phases of aviation and the relation of the United States thereto.” (See January 22, 1935.)
Sunday, July 15, 1934:The Southwest Division of Varney Speed Lines began operations, flying a mail route between Pueblo, CO, and El Paso, TX. The organization later evolved into Continental Air Lines, a name that it adopted on July 1, 1937.
Wednesday, July 18, 1934:The Baker Committee (see April 17, 1934), having taken the testimony of 105 witnesses, visited various aviation centers, and received 536 communications from Air Corps officers, filed its report. The Committee found that the United States surpassed other countries in “general,” commercial, and naval aviation, but that U.S. military aviation needed financial support. Practically all deficiencies in Air Corps armament, equipment, and munitions, the Committee found, were traceable to lack of funds. Considering the aviation industry essential to national defense, the committee recommended that the Federal government refrain from competition with private industry. It further recommended that in addition to purchase by open competitive bids, purchase by design competition and by negotiation should be lawful. Moreover, since the committee believed that commercial equipment and methods would continue to lead the way, it recommended that the Air Corps take steps to keep abreast of and adopt the latest such equipment and methods and that Army cargo and transport planes be converted or developed from commercial types. It also recommended that Army pilots be trained to use the national airways.
Thursday, July 19, 1934:The Bureau of Air Commerce announced the creation of a Development Section to conduct and promote work on new types of aircraft, engines, and accessories, with specialization in the development of a low-priced airplane for general public use (see November 8, 1933). The new section reported directly to the Director of Air Commerce.
Sunday, July 1, 1934:The Bureau of Air Commerce designated the first full-time aeronautical inspector for permanent duty in Alaska. Heretofore, Department of Commerce responsibilities in Alaska under the Air Commerce Act had been accomplished in the course of an annual visit by an inspector. The duties of the inspector included examination of airmen and aircraft for licensing, enforcement of airline regulations and air traffic rules, inspection of flying schools, rating of airports, and all other matters under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce. An important part of these duties was to cooperate closely with the territorial government in seeking to develop airports and stimulate interest in flying.
Wednesday, September 5, 1934:Wiley Post, the first pilot to use a successful pressure suit, reached about 40,000 feet over Chicago. Although this flight did not set a new altitude record, Post demonstrated the future of pressurized flying with this and later stratospheric operations.
Thursday, September 13, 1934:Following a conclusive demonstration of an Army Air Corps blind-landing system, the Bureau of Air Commerce adopted that system as its standard. The demonstration marked the conclusion of eleven months work by the Bureau in which it tested various systems and modifications for blind landing using a Ford tri-motor transport. (See March 1, 1933, and May 2, 1940.)
Monday, October 1, 1934:Revised safety requirements for airlines became effective. The revision resulted from an amendment to the Air Commerce Act of 1926, effective in June 1934, which strengthened and made more explicit the authority of the Secretary of Commerce to prescribe safety regulations.
The new provisions included the requirement for airline pilots to use multi-engine aircraft capable of operating with one engine not functioning when flying at night or over terrain not readily permitting emergency landings. Instrument or “blind” flying was permitted only for multi-engine airliners equipped with two-way radio.
The rules also required every airline to set up its system in operating divisions, with each division’s operating procedure subject to the approval of the Bureau of Air Commerce. The divisions were to have approved operations manuals dealing with such safety matters as minimum altitudes of flight over specific airways, minimum ceiling for landing at specific airports, procedures for takeoff in the event of forced landing, and weather minimums for specific routes.
New flight duty time limitations for airline pilots included a maximum of 100 hours per month. This was lower than the previous 110 hour monthly maximum and closer to the 85 hours required by law for pilots of air mail carriers (see June 12, 1934). Other provisions included a requirement that dispatching procedures and personnel receive Department of Commerce approval.
Monday, October 15, 1934:The National Airline System, later known as National Airlines, began operations as a Florida intrastate carrier. National’s transformation into a trunk airline began in 1944, when the Civil Aeronautics Board awarded it authority to serve the New York/Florida market.
Tuesday, January 1, 1935:The Bureau of Air Commerce announced a new policy for the classification of airports, under which only those airports serving scheduled interstate airlines would be examined for compliance with its requirements.
January 11-12, 1935:Amelia Earhart took off in a Lockheed Vega from Honolulu and landed in Oakland, CA, 18 hours 15 minutes later — making the first solo flight from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland.
Monday, January 21, 1935: After closely following the work of the Federal Aviation Commission (see July 11, 1934, and January 22, 1935), Senator Pat McCarran (D-NV) introduced a bill (S. 1932) to create a Civil Aeronautics Commission to regulate the economic phases of both scheduled air transportation and aircraft operations in furtherance of a business. Safety regulation of civil aviation would also be turned over to this commission, but the Secretary of Commerce would retain his duties under existing law with regard to airways and air navigation facilities. (See June 7, 1935.)
Tuesday, January 22, 1935:The Federal Aviation Commission (see July 11, 1934) submitted its report to the President, recommending the establishment of an independent Air Commerce Commission that would eventually be absorbed, along with agencies regulating other forms of transportation, into an overall transportation agency. The commission also suggested that Congress empower the Department of Commerce to install lights and other navigational aids at selected airports, and recommended that Congress ban holding-company operations and other monopolistic practices in the aeronautical industry. On January 31, 1935, in forwarding the report to the Congress, President Roosevelt said he was unable to concur in the commission’s recommendation for creating what he called a “temporary” Air Commerce Commission. Until a permanent transportation agency was created, the President said the needs of air transportation could be well served by a division of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Congressman Clarence Lea (D-CA) introduced legislation to enact the commission’s recommendations, but the bill died in 1936.
Tuesday, January 22, 1935:The Bureau of Air Commerce appointed an inspector in South America to renew licenses for U.S. airmen and aircraft of U.S. registry.
Tuesday, February 12, 1935:The U.S. Navy’s rigid airship Macon crashed at sea off the California coast. This crash, coupled with the loss of the Macon’s sister ship, the Akron, two years earlier, ended U.S. interest in rigid airship development.
Monday, May 6, 1935:A Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA) DC-2 crashed near Atlanta, MO, killing five of the eight persons aboard. Senator Bronson M. Cutting (R-NM) was among the fatalities. A Bureau of Air Commerce report cited the accident’s causes as the U.S. Weather Bureau’s failure to predict hazardous weather and misjudgments by the pilot and TWA ground personnel. In June 1936, however, a committee chaired by Sen. Royal S. Copeland (D-NY) issued a report alleging that the tragedy was caused by malfunctioning navigational aides and voicing other criticisms of the Bureau of Air Commerce. The controversy gave impetus to legislative efforts that eventuated in the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938. (See June 23, 1938.)
Friday, June 7, 1935:In recommending extension of the Emergency Railroad Transportation Act to Congress, President Roosevelt repeated his views on the regulation of aviation (see January 22, 1935). “Air transportation,” he wrote, “should be brought into a proper relation to other forms of transportation by subjecting it to regulation by the same agency.” He said it was his hope “that the Interstate Commerce Commission may, with the addition of the new duties that I have indicated, ultimately become a Federal Transportation Commission with comprehensive powers.” This reorganization, he believed, should not be delayed beyond the second session of the 74th Congress, or 1936. On June 10, in an effort to carry out President Roosevelt’s wishes, Senator Pat McCarran (D-NV) introduced a new bill to replace the one he had introduced on January 21. The revised proposal placed all regulatory authority in the Interstate Commerce Commission. During hearings, considerable interdepartmental differences of opinion came to light, particularly between the Commerce and Post Office Departments and the Interstate Commerce Commission. After being rewritten, the bill was reported out of committee, but failed to reach a vote on the floor of the Senate and died with the adjournment of the 74th Congress in 1936.
Wednesday, June 19, 1935: Gathering at the invitation of the Department of Commerce, a group of governmental and industry representatives formed the Radio Technical Committee for Aeronautics (RTCA) . The Department had organized the meeting to address a need for coordination of research in the development of aeronautical radio. The new RTCA agreed to launch a continuing study of radio problems affecting air navigation. It began by forming subcommittees to consider such issues as reducing rain static interference and allocating frequencies. As it evolved, RTCA made two changes to its name. On January 15, 1942, the group adopted a constitution and changed the word “Committee” to “Commission.” On November 14, 1991, the organization became a non-profit corporation and shortened its name to RTCA, Inc.
Thursday, June 20, 1935:President Roosevelt ordered the creation of the Interdepartmental Committee on Civil International Aviation to gather information and make recommendations pertaining to civil international aviation. The committee was terminated upon the creation of the Civil Aeronautics Authority on August 22, 1938.
Tuesday, June 25, 1935:The first flight of the Breguet-Dorand Gyroplane, an aircraft with two rotors mounted one above the other, took place in France. The Gyroplane is sometimes cited as the first true helicopter, but its achievements were surpassed by Germany’s Focke-Achgelis Fa-61. Often considered the first practical helicopter, the Fa-61 first flew on June 26, 1936, and went on to set many records. During 1937, it made the first helicopter flight of over one hour.
Thursday, June 27, 1935:The Supreme Court of the United States handed down its ruling in the case of Rathbun (Humphrey’s Executor) v. United States — a ruling that was to have a direct effect on the structure of the Civil Aeronautics Authority (see June 23, 1938). The Court held that President Roosevelt had exceeded his power in dismissing William E. Humphrey, a Republican member of the Federal Trade Commission, without assigning a statutory cause. The decision was based on the Court’s finding that the FTC, since it included quasi-legislative functions among its responsibilities, was a creature of Congress; therefore, Congress had been within its powers in specifying by law the basis for removal of appointees. This decision was in contrast to that in the case of Myers v. United States (1926), in which the Court had upheld President Wilson’s dismissal of a postmaster on the ground that the latter was an agent of the presidential power. (See January 12, 1937.)
Tuesday, July 23, 1935:Britain’s Defense Research Committee received a key report on technology that became known as radar (radio detecting and ranging). By the time World War II began, Britain had established a chain of radar stations and equipped British aircraft with a device called IFF (identification, friend or foe) to help the radar stations distinguish British from hostile aircraft. (See June 30, 1945.)
Wednesday, August 14, 1935:An amendment to the Air Mail Act of 1934 (see June 12, 1934) became law, permitting the Postmaster General to award air mail contracts for a three-year period. The amendment also authorized moderate increases in route mileage, which had been frozen at 25,000 miles in the 1934 act to prevent extension abuses.
Thursday, August 15, 1935:Pioneer aviator Wiley Post and humorist Will Rogers were killed when an aircraft piloted by Post — a hybrid, pontoon-equipped Lockheed Orion-Explorer — plunged into a lagoon on takeoff, 16 miles north of Point Barrow, AK.
Thursday, August 29, 1935:The Bureau of Air Commerce began discharging its responsibilities in the Works Progress Administration airport development program, providing technical advice and recommendations on all projects submitted. On October 1, the Bureau announced the appointment of seven regional supervisors and thirteen district advisors to oversee the assistance work, which came under the general supervision of the chief of the permanent Airport, Marking, and Mapping Section.
Thursday, September 5, 1935:Simultaneous transmission of radio beacon signals and voice was first put into regular service at Pittsburgh, PA. (See July 1, 1937.)
Friday, November 1, 1935: Due to increased air traffic, Bureau of Air Commerce director Eugene Vidal ordered all airway users, except airline operators, to refrain temporarily from making instrument flights within 25 miles of the center line of a radio beam or within 25 miles of an air carrier airport. (See November 12-14, 1935.)
November 12-14, 1935:Representatives of all segments of the aviation community, except manufacturers, met at the Commerce Building in Washington, DC, with Bureau of Air Commerce officials to discuss airway traffic control. Although the conferees agreed that the Bureau should establish a uniform system of air traffic control, a lack of funding prevented it from assuming control. Director of Air Commerce Vidal convinced the airline operators to establish airway traffic control immediately and promised that in 90 to 120 days the Bureau of Air Commerce would take over the operations. (See March 24, 1936.) On November 15, Vidal approved an inter-airline air traffic agreement between carriers flying the Chicago-Cleveland-Newark airway. He also relaxed the general ban on instrument flying by private fliers (see November 1, 1935). Those pilots could now fly by instruments if they filed a flight plan with the Bureau of Air Commerce and with at least one airline flying over the route they planned to use.
November 22-29, 1935:Pan American Airway’s China Clipper made the first transpacific air mail flight from San Francisco to Honolulu, Midway, Wake, Guam, and Manila. (See October 21, 1936.)
Sunday, December 1, 1935:A consortium of airline companies organized and manned the first airway traffic control center at Newark, NJ. It provided information to airline pilots on the whereabouts of planes other than their own in the Newark vicinity during weather conditions requiring instrument flying. Two additional centers, similarly organized and staffed, opened several months later: Chicago in April 1936, Cleveland in June 1936. (See July 6, 1936, and November 12-14, 1935.)
Tuesday, December 17, 1935:The Douglas DC-3 first flew. One of the most successful aircraft in history, the DC-3 was the first plane that allowed airlines to begin basing their profits squarely on passenger service rather than on carrying mail. The Bureau of Air Commerce certificated this aircraft on May 21, 1936, and American Airlines became the first to place it in service (using the berth-equipped DST version) on June 25, 1936. By 1942, the DC-3 represented 80 percent of the U.S. airline fleet. When production of the DC-3 and its modifications ended in 1945, 10,926 aircraft had been built, 803 as commercial airliners, and the rest as military versions (called C-47 in the U.S. Army, R4D in the U.S. Navy, Dakota or Dakota I by the British).
Friday, January 3, 1936:Executives of scheduled U.S. airlines met in Chicago to form the Air Transport Association of America as a separate trade association for air carriers. Until the end of 1935, the founding airlines had belonged to the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce (see Calendar Year 1945). The new Association’s first president was Edgar S. Gorrell, whose effective lobbying was soon to play an important role in the passage of the Civil Aeronautics Act (see June 23, 1938). Gorrell served until 1945, and was succeded by: Emory S. Land, 1946-53; Earl D. Johnson, 1954-55; Harold L. Pearson, 1955; Stuart E. Tipton, 1955-72; Paul R. Ignatius, 1972-84; Norman J. Phillion, 1985; William S. Bolger, 1986-88; Robert J. Aaronson, 1989-92; and James E. Landry, who began serving in 1992.
Tuesday, March 24, 1936: At a meeting before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee to ask for supplemental funds, Director of Air Commerce Eugene L. Vidal, convinced the committee of the necessity for the Federal Government to take over Air Traffic Control. Vidal succeeded in ultimately obtaining $175,000 for the takeover of three existing control centers early in fiscal 1937. (See July 6, 1936).
Friday, April 10, 1936:The President signed legislation that extended the jurisdiction of the Railway Labor Act to airline employees. The act guaranteed the right of collective bargaining and provided mechanisms, such as mediation and arbitration, for settling labor-management issues. It also provided for investigation of representation disputes and for certification of employee organizations as representatives of crafts or classes of carrier employees.
Saturday, May 9, 1936:The German rigid airship Hindenburg moored at Lakehurst, NJ, after a nonstop transatlantic passage of 61 hours 38 minutes from Fiedrichshafen, Germany. The flight marked the inauguration of regularly scheduled transatlantic air service. The Hindenburg, which had first flown two months earlier, on March 4, made ten roundtrips between Germany and the United States during her 1936 season, carrying 1,021 passengers across the North Atlantic. (See May 6, 1937.)
Saturday, June 6, 1936:The Socony-Vacuum Oil Company began using the catalytic cracking method to produce aviation gasoline, a step forward in the technology of aviation fuel production.
Monday, July 6, 1936:Federal air traffic control began as the Bureau of Air Commerce took over operation of the three airway traffic control centers at Newark, Chicago, and Cleveland. Up to this time, these centers had been operated by private airline companies (see December 1, 1935). The centers were placed under Earl F. Ward, whose appointment as Supervisor, Airway Traffic Control, had been announced on March 6, 1936. Ward reported to the chief of the Airline Inspection Service within the Air Regulation Division. When the Bureau assumed control of the centers, it hired fifteen center employees to become the original Federal corps of airway controllers.
Saturday, August 15, 1936:Bureau of Air Commerce regulations governing instrument flight became effective. Under the new rules, all civil pilots desiring to fly intentionally by instruments over a civil airway were required to have an instrument rating and a Federally licensed aircraft equipped with two-way radio and approved instrument flying equipment. Pilots were required to file a flight plan if they intended to fly by instruments or along a civil airway when visibility was less than one mile. At this time, almost all general aviation pilots lacked instrument ratings and equipment for instrument flying. During bad weather, therefore, the new rules generally kept them off airways used by air carriers.
Thursday, September 10, 1936:Deutsche Luft Hansa’s twin-engine Dornier Do.18 flying boat Zephyr alighted offshore of Port Washington, NY, after a flight of 22 hours 18 minutes from Horta in the Azores, where it had been catapulted from the deck of a depot ship. This was the first a series of German survey flights for possible transatlantic airmail service. The Germans continued such experimental flights into 1938.
Wednesday, September 30, 1936:Three reporters left New York City to journey around the world as passengers. Herbert R. Ekins, who made all major links by air, arrived back in 18 days, 14 hours, 56 minutes. Dorothy Kilgallen and Leo Kieran made surface connections that included a sea voyage from Hong Kong to Manila. Keiran’s time of 24 days, 14 hours, 20 minutes was 1 hour 45 minutes slower than Gilgallen’s, but he claimed to be the only one of the three who used only regular transportation available to all citizens.
Monday, October 19, 1936:The Bureau of Air Commerce commissioned the Detroit air route traffic control center on this date, followed by the Pittsburgh center on November 16.
Wednesday, October 21, 1936:Pan American Airways initiated regular weekly transpacific passenger service as the Hawaii Clipper took of from Alameda, near San Francisco, arriving at Manila on October 27. (See November 22-29, 1935, and April 28, 1937.)
Sunday, November 1, 1936:Central Airlines and Pennsylvania Airlines merged to form Pennsylvania-Central Airlines. The company changed its name to Capital Airlines on April 21, 1948. (See June 1, 1961.)
Calendar Year 1936:For the first time in their history, U.S. domestic airlines carried a million or more passengers (l,042,042) in scheduled air operations in a single year.
Tuesday, January 12, 1937:Franklin Roosevelt submitted to Congress the Report of the President’s Committee on Administrative Management, popularly known as the Brownlow Report, named after chairman Louis Brownlow, a public administration expert. The committee had examined the proliferation of Federal boards, commissions, and agencies that operated independently of the President’s executive powers, and constituted a “fourth branch of Government.” The committee had no quarrel with the Congress’s intent in creating these agencies–they were needed to perform quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial functions. But the committee did take exception to the fact that these agencies also exercised executive or administrative powers that, in its opinion, properly belonged to the President. The committee recommended that those entities be placed within executive departments and divided into judicial and administrative sections. The judicial section would be independent of executive branch control; the administrative section, however, would be headed by a chief directly responsible to a member of the President’s cabinet. The Brownlow Report had a profound influence on the organizational structure of the Civil Aeronautics Authority, as set forth in Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 (see June 23, 1938).
Sunday, February 28, 1937:Eugene L. Vidal announced his resignation as Director of Air Commerce. He was succeeded the following day by Fred D. Fagg, Jr. Fagg came to the Bureau of Air Commerce as an authority on aviation law. In 1929 he had founded the Air Law Institute at Northwestern University, and since then he had been its director in addition to editing or helping to edit its publication, the Journal of Air Law. Before his appointment as Director of Air Commerce, Fagg had served as consulting expert to the Department of Commerce on revision of the air commerce regulations, as an advisor to the Copeland Senate committee on aircraft safety, and as one of the advisers to the Federal Aviation Commission (see July 11, 1934). He was a member of the Illinois Aeronautics Commission, secretary of the National Association of State Aviation Officials, and a member of the American Section, International Technical Committee of Aerial Legal Experts. (See April 16, 1938.)
Monday, March 1, 1937:The Bureau of Air Commerce commissioned the Los Angeles air route traffic control center on this date, followed by the Washington (DC) center on April 1 and the Oakland center on May 15.
Wednesday, April 28, 1937:The Pan American Hong Kong Clipper, a Sikorsky S-42B flying boat, arrived at Hong Kong from Manila. Linking with the existing Pan Am route from San Francisco to Manila, this new service completed the first commercial airline route from the United States to a point close to the Asian mainland. (See October 21, 1936.)
Thursday, April 29, 1937:The Commerce Department announced a new plan of organization for the Bureau of Air Commerce. The reorganization placed all activities under the Director of Air Commerce, assisted by an Assistant Director, with supervision over seven principal divisions: Airways Engineering; Airways Operation; Safety and Planning; Administrative; Information and Statistics; Certificate and Inspection; and Regulation and Enforcement. A Policy Board composed of top Bureau officials and a Technical Assistant and an Advisory Board of representatives of aviation interests assisted the Director. A second Assistant Director position was added during fiscal 1938.
Thursday, May 6, 1937:The German airship Hindenburg burst into flames while mooring at Lakehurst, NJ, the U.S. terminal for its regular transatlantic service, killing 35 of the 97 persons aboard. The tragedy signaled the end of serious efforts to use rigid airships in commercial air transportation.
Friday, May 7, 1937:The first flight by a fully pressurized airplane, the Lockheed XC-35, occurred. The Army used the plane, a modified Electra, to test equipment and material for use in high altitude operations. A few aircraft prior to the XC-35 had been fitted with experimental pressure cabins, but none of the earlier models flew successfully.
Friday, May 28, 1937:National Aviation Day occurred for the first time, on a one-time basis, pursuant to a Presidential proclamation issued in accordance with Public Resolution No. 32, 75th Congress, approved May 25, 1937. May 28 was selected because it marked the 20th anniversary of the decision to design what later became known as the Liberty engine, the principal U.S. contribution to aeronautics during World War I. (See August 19, 1939.)
Wednesday, June 16, 1937:Commercial passenger service was inaugurated reciprocally between New York and Bermuda by Pan American Airways, using the Sikorsky S.42B flying boat Bermuda Clipper, and by Imperial Airways, using the Short S.23 flying boat Cavalier. This was the first scheduled airplane service over a segment of the North Atlantic.
Thursday, July 1, 1937:The Bureau of Air Commerce launched a two-year comprehensive airways modernization and extension program, allocating five million dollars to modernize the existing airways, and $2 million to extend the airways system. Under the program, the Bureau converted the existing airway broadcast and radio range stations to the simultaneous system of transmission in which a pilot could receive radio range signals and radiotelephone information on weather conditions at the same time. By the end of fiscal 1938, six simultaneous-transmission stations had been completed, with the remaining 159 scheduled for completion at the rate of 12 to 15 per month. (See September 5, 1935, and May 1, 1939.) This program followed a period of several years during which stringent curtailment of funds had brought development of the nation’s airways to a virtual standstill.
Friday, July 2, 1937:A Lockheed Electra 10E carrying navigator Fred J. Noonan and famed pilot Amelia Earhart was reported overdue at Howland Island in the Pacific, a stop on an eastward trip planned as the first flight to follow an equatorial path around the globe. A massive search failed to locate the aircraft, and theories as to its fate abound.
Monday, August 23, 1937:At the Army’s Wright Field, Dayton, OH, the first wholly automatic landing was made by Capt. Carl J. Crane, the system’s inventor, Capt. George Holloman, pilot, and Mr. Raymond K. Stout, project engineer. The landing was made without intervention from the human pilot or from the ground.
Wednesday, September 15, 1937:President Roosevelt appointed an Interdepartmental Committee on Civil Aviation Legislation to review for the executive branch legislation proposed for the economic regulation of the air carrier industry and make recommendations (see June 7, 1935). Representatives from the State, Treasury, War, Navy, Post Office, and Commerce Departments served on the committee. On January 4, 1938, the committee incorporated the result of its hearings and deliberations in a proposed bill. That bill underwent various modifications and became in large part the basis of the Senate and House bills sponsored by Senator Pat McCarran (D-NV) and Congressman Clarence F. Lea (D-CA). Early in 1938, President Roosevelt informed McCarran and Lea that he had changed his mind concerning regulation of air commerce by the Interstate Commerce Commission (see January 31 and June 7, 1935) and now favored the idea of a separate commission to regulate all phases of civil aeronautics. These moves by the President and the two members of Congress were key events in the several years of efforts to obtain legislation providing for all or part of the regulation of civil aeronautics to be performed by the Interstate Commerce Commission or a new independent agency. Between March 26, 1934, when McCarran introduced his first bill for such a purpose, until the passage of the Civil Aeronautics Act, more than 30 bills dealing with this subject had been introduced in Congress, and many of these bills had more than one version as a result of modification during hearings. The act, as it finally emerged from Congress, embraced the contributions of many persons and represented many compromises. (See June 23, 1938.)
Monday, November 1, 1937:A Department of Commerce rule went into effect that required scheduled air carriers to employ a copilot on multi-engine aircraft with retractable landing gear or wing flaps, and on single-engine aircraft incorporating both retractable landing gear and wing flaps. It also required a copilot in scheduled service during instrument flying and during flights that exceeded a certain duration. (See October 1, 1931 and July 8, 1940.)
Monday, November 1, 1937:The main part of the Civil Air Regulations (CARs), representing a thorough revision and codification of the Air Commerce Regulations, went into effect. Classification of the regulations into parts and sections numbered by an expansible decimal system began at this time. The need for this revision and codification had become quite urgent. Since 1926, various individuals within the Aeronautics Branch, the Bureau of Air Commerce, or the Department of Commerce had issued regulations without any system for clearance through a central office. As a result, there was no convenient or standard compilation; sometimes, regulations could be found only in Departmental or Bureau correspondence. Moreover, the enforceability of most of the regulations was open to question in case of contest because most of them had been issued by persons other than the Secretary of Commerce, the official designated in the Air Commerce Act. The staff of the Bureau of Air Commerce and its predecessor, the Aeronautics Branch, were well aware of the situation but too burdened with routine duties to exert the major effort required to correct it.
Finally, through the interest of Colonel J. Monroe Johnson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, the Bureau invited two consulting experts from Northwestern University to undertake the task of revision. Fred D. Fagg, Jr., and John H. Wigmore, Dean Emeritus of Northwestern’s School of Law, began the work in July 1936. When Fagg became Director of Air Commerce on March 1, 1937, he was replaced by Howard C. Knotts, Editor in Chief of the Journal of Air Law. (See March 22, 1927, and October 18, 1960.)
Calendar Year 1937:Reciprocal air transport service across the North Atlantic was the subject of an exchange-of-notes agreement consummated between the governments of the United Kingdom, Canada, the Irish Free State, and the United States. Provision was made for the British and American air carriers to operate the service, each participating carrier to fly not more than two round trips per week. (See May 19, 1939.)
Saturday, January 1, 1938:An Airport Traffic Control Section was created in the Airways Operation Division of the Bureau of Air Commerce. The new section was to standardize airport control tower equipment, operation techniques, and personnel. Forty airport control tower operators had been certificated by June 30, 1938.
Saturday, April 16, 1938:Denis Mulligan became Director of Air Commerce, succeeding Fred D. Fagg, Jr. (see February 28, 1937), who had resigned the previous day. Mulligan brought to this position broad experience in aviation, business, and law. A 1924 graduate of West Point, he qualified as an Army Air Corps pilot and observer. After resigning from the Army, he was active in insurance work, commercial aviation, and admiralty law. He joined the Bureau of Air Commerce in 1934 as chief of the Enforcement Section, became Chief of the Regulations and Enforcement Division, and in October 1937 became the Bureau’s Assistant Director. Mulligan resigned as the last Director of the Bureau on August 21, 1938, the day before the Civil Aeronautics Act became operative. (See July 7, 1938.)
Tuesday, June 7, 1938:The Boeing 314 first flew. On January 25, 1939, the Civil Aeronautics Authority type-certificated the aircraft, and the airliner entered service with Pan American Airways on May 20, 1939. Made to the specification of Pan American for transoceanic travel, the four-engine flying boat had a gross empty weight of 50,286 pounds and a maximum carrying capacity of 74 passengers and 10 crew members. In 1939, the 314 became the largest production airplane in regular scheduled service in the world.
Thursday, June 23, 1938:President Roosevelt signed the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 into law. Most of its provisions, however, were to become effective 60 days later (see August 22, 1938). The law created a new kind of Federal agency–one designed, in the light of the Brownlow Report (see January 12, 1937) and court decisions (see June 27, 1935), to keep its functions as the agent of Congress distinct from its functions as the agent of the President. This new Civil Aeronautics Authority was composed of three elements.
To perform the quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial functions of safety and economic regulation, the law created a five-member entity designated the Civil Aeronautics Authority, the same term used to describe the agency as a whole. The law also established an Administrator of the Authority, who was independent of the five-member Authority and had responsibility for the executive and operational functions of the agency. Finally, an Air Safety Board of three members operated independently within the agency and had quasi-judicial powers for investigating accidents, determining their probable cause, and making recommendations for accident prevention.
The President appointed all nine of these officials with the concurrence of the Senate. The Administrator, as the agent of the presidential power, could be removed by the President at will, the others only for cause.
As assigned to the five-member Authority, safety regulation functions were essentially those previously performed by the Bureau of Air Commerce, but revised and enlarged. Economic regulation was made much more comprehensive and thorough than that authorized by the Air Mail Act of 1934 (see June 12, 1934). The Authority was given regulatory powers applying to: air mail rates; airline rates, fares, and routes; and the business practices of airlines–the last involving inspection or regulation of such matters as accounts, records, consolidations, mergers, or other forms of control, and methods of competition. Interstate air carriers were required to obtain from the Authority a certificate of public convenience and necessity permitting them to operate over specified routes.
The Administrator’s functions under the law were the encouragement of civil aeronautics and commerce, establishment of civil airways, provision and technical improvement of air navigation facilities, and the protection and regulation of air traffic along the airways. Airports were not excluded from the facilities that the Administrator could establish and maintain, as they had been under the Air Commerce Act; however, the Administrator was prohibited from acquiring any airport by purchase or condemnation. The law directed the Administrator to make a field survey of the existing system of airports and to present definite recommendations by February 1, 1939, on whether and how the Federal government should participate in the development, operation, or maintenance of a national system of airports. (See September 14, 1938.)
Thursday, June 30, 1938:During the fiscal year that ended this date, the Department of Commerce established teletype network Schedule B connecting airway traffic control centers with airway communication stations and with military airbases. By the end of the year this teletype network comprised approximately 10,000 miles of circuits. Prior to this time, the airway traffic control centers were served by only a party-line telephone circuit connecting the center with the local airline radio ground stations, the control tower, and the Department of Commerce radio range stations. Control of airway traffic was limited to aircraft that were in communication with the radio stations operating at the same location as the airway traffic control center. Establishment of the Schedule B network permitted teletype transmission of flight data independently of the increasing load of weather data being transmitted on Schedule A circuits. It became apparent, however, that improved telephone communication was also needed for airway traffic control. By the end of fiscal 1940, the government had leased 1,760 miles of private-line telephone circuits connecting airway traffic control centers and other facilities. By 1942, there were 29,124 miles of these “interphone circuits” in operation.
Friday, July 1, 1938:The Bureau of Air Commerce created a new field organization that decentralized administrative authority. The Bureau abolished the nine general inspection districts and the six airway districts and consolidated their functions into seven regional offices headquartered at Kansas City (MO), Los Angeles, Newark, Atlanta, Chicago, Fort Worth, and Seattle. Each region was placed under the general direction of a regional manager responsible for a host of matters that had previously been the province of Washington officials. The reorganization was in line with the recommendations of the President’s Committee on Administrative Management, headed by Louis Brownlow (January 1, 1937), which had urged the decentralization of the Washington departments along geographical lines and the creation of regional units to cover all parts of the United States to carry out “more and more of the administrative work.” In that way, the committee stated, government would be brought closer to the people. When the Civil Aeronautics Authority began operations it retained the Bureau’s newly decentralized field organization. (See August 1, 1941.)
Thursday, July 7, 1938:President Roosevelt named the five members of the Civil Aeronautics Authority (see June 29, 1938). The Chairman was to be Edward J. Noble, a Connecticut industrialist who had long had an interest in aviation and was one of the first private owners of an autogiro. The other members were Grant Mason, Harllee Branch, Oswald Ryan, and Robert H. Hinckley. (See April 12, 1939.) On the same day, the President named Clinton M. Hester, of Montana, as the first Administrator of the Civil Aeronautics Authority. A veteran public servant, Hester was in his 20th year of Federal service in Washington. He had previously served in six different agencies and was, at the time of this appointment, assistant general counsel of the Department of the Treasury. He did not formally begin his new duties until August 22, 1938, the effective date of the Civil Aeronautics Act. (See July 11, 1940.)
July 10-14, 1938:With a crew of four, Howard Hughes flew a Lockheed L-14 around the world from Floyd Bennett Field, NY, and back with stops at Paris, Moscow, Omsk, Yakutsk, Fairbanks, and Minneapolis. This celebrated flight of 14,824 miles took 3 days 19 hours, about half the time achieved by Wiley Post over a similar course in 1934 (see entry for June 23-July 1, 1931).
Monday, July 11, 1938:The British Empire led the world in miles covered by air route operations (80,000), according to an annual report on civil aviation published this date. The runner-up was the United States, with 63,000 miles. France had 38,750; Germany, 31,900; Italy, 19,450; and Holland, 19,000.
Sunday, July 17, 1938:Douglas Corrigan took off from Floyd Bennett Field, NY, on a 28-hour solo flight to Dublin, Ireland. The pilot had failed to receive clearance for a transatlantic flight, and his persistent claim that he had intended to fly to California earned him the sobriquet “Wrong Way” Corrigan.
Friday, July 29, 1938:Pan American’s Hawaii Clipper disappeared between Guam and Manila, and searchers failed to find a trace of the aircraft. The frequency of transpacific service was reduced as a result of the clipper’s loss.
Monday, August 22, 1938:The Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 became operative (see June 23, 1938). To implement the act, the Bureau of Air Commerce was transferred from the Department of Commerce, and the Bureau of Air Mail from the Interstate Commerce Commission to the Civil Aeronautics Authority.
Tuesday, September 27, 1938:The Civil Aeronautics Authority announced that President Roosevelt had approved its recommendation for the immediate construction of a close-in airport to serve the District of Columbia — the Washington National Airport. Expected to serve as a model for the rest of the nation, the new airport would be located at Gravelly Point on the Potomac River. The site of approximately 750 acres would include 500 acres of “made” land from dry fill and dredging. The project was to begin immediately and was scheduled for completion by the end of 1940. (See June 16, 1941.)
Tuesday, December 27, 1938:President Roosevelt announced an experimental Civilian Pilot Training Program involving 330 pilots and 13 colleges and supported by National Youth Administration funds. (See June 27, 1939.)
Saturday, December 31, 1938:The Boeing 307 Stratoliner, the first airliner with a pressurized cabin, made its initial flight. Derived from the B-17 bomber, this long-range transport had four engines and a carrying capacity of 33 passengers. CAA type-certificated the aircraft on March 13, 1940, and on July 8, 1940, it entered scheduled service with Transcontinental and Western Air. Besides the prototype, which was lost in a crash, Boeing built only 9 Stratoliners: 5 for TWA, 3 for Pan American, and 1 for Howard Hughes.
Wednesday, March 1, 1939:The Civil Aeronautics Authority commissioned the Fort Worth air route traffic control center on this date, the Salt Lake City center on April 1, the St. Louis center on May 1, and the Atlanta center on October 1.
Thursday, March 23, 1939:The Civil Aeronautics Authority submitted to Congress its final report on a detailed nationwide survey of airports mandated by the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938. The report indicated that the number of municipal and commercial airports had increased from 823 at the end of 1927 to 1,833 at the end of 1938, and that Federal relief programs had been responsible for most airport development since 1933. The Authority recommended that the development and maintenance of an adequate system of airports (including seaplane bases) should be recognized as a matter of national concern and a proper object of Federal expenditure. Currently, the Authority believed that airports should receive $100 million of regular public-works or work-relief funds, as well as $25 million to increase the Federal share of joint Federal-local projects. Important airport projects should also be eligible for special funding in the form of grants to state authorities. Plans for the location and development of any airports benefiting from a Federal contribution should be approved by the Federal agency responsible for civil airways. The Federal government should not contribute to the cost of maintaining non-Federal airports; however, the Civil Aeronautics Authority might, as funds permitted, assume the cost of operating airport lighting equipment or other air navigation facilities as a part of the cost of operating the Federal airway system.
Wednesday, April 12, 1939:President Roosevelt named Robert H. Hinckley of Utah, to be Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Authority. He succeeded Edward J. Noble (see July 7, 1938), who resigned to become Executive Assistant to the Secretary of Commerce. Hinckley was serving as an original member of the Authority at the time of his appointment to the chairmanship. Previously, he had been Assistant Administrator of the Works Progress Administration and had been in charge of WPA activities in the West. Hinckley was Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Authority at the time of the reorganization of June 30, 1940 (see that date). He became Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Air on July 8, 1940, and served in that post until July 1, 1942.
Tuesday, April 18, 1939:The minimum age requirement for a private pilot’s license was increased from 16 to 18 years. The rule change resulted from a protracted campaign by the father of Edward Mallinckrodt. In 1932, the 16-year-old Mallinckrodt took a friend on a flight that ended in an accident costing both their lives. The young man’s parents had been unaware that their son possessed a pilot’s license, since parental consent was not then required for pilot applicants (see December 7, 1933). The elder Mallinckrodt failed to convince the Department of Commerce that the age requirement should be raised to 18. Eventually, however, he enlisted the support of CAA board member Oswald Ryan, who pushed the reform through the Authority. The change prevented 16- and 17-year-olds from carrying passengers, but they could still qualify as students and fly solo. (See July 1, 1945.)
Saturday, April 1, 1939:The National Institute of Municipal Law Officers issued the first model Airport Zoning Act, prepared with CAA assistance, to encourage enactment of such legislation by state governments. By November 1944, when a fifth revision of the Model Act was published, 12 states and one territory had passed similar acts. (See September 1, 1946.)
Monday, May 1, 1939:The Civil Aeronautics Authority completed a $7 million airways modernization and improvement program begun July 1, 1937. The Federal Airways System now covered 25,500 miles and included a total of 231 radio range stations, 100 ultra-high-frequency cone-of-silence markers, and 21 ultra-high-frequency fan markers. The program also involved modernization of all the full-power radio ranges to permit simultaneous voice and range broadcasts. (See July 1, 1937.)
Tuesday, May 9, 1939:Dale E. White and Chauncey E. Spencer took off in a Lincoln-Paige biplane from Harlem Airport in Oak Lawn, IL, on a flight to Washington, DC, as part of a campaign for inclusion of African Americans in aviation training programs. A number of black colleges were subsequently selected as participants in the Civilian Pilot Training Program (see June 27, 1939).
Monday, May 15, 1939:The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), an organization devoted to the interests of general aviation, was founded. C. Townsend Ludington became the association’s first president. The first major organization of its kind, AOPA would assume in the years to come a large voice in aviation affairs.
Friday, May 19, 1939:The Civil Aeronautics Authority announced issuance of a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Pan American Airways authorizing transatlantic air transport service of two round trips per week. Before any passengers were to be carried, Pan American was required to complete a minimum of five trips as proving flights (see June 28, 1939); however, Pan American began the first regular transatlantic airplane mail service on May 20.
Monday, May 29, 1939:CAA’s Indianapolis Experimental Station opened with the mission of seeking improvements in ultra-high-frequency radio ranges, transmitters, receivers, instrument landing systems, airport lighting methods, and other air navigation aids. Located on a landing area contiguous with the municipal airport, the station was made available by the city of Indianapolis through a long-term lease arrangement. Its facilities included a hangar, laboratory, and shop building constructed in accordance with the Authority’s specifications.
Tuesday, June 27, 1939:President Roosevelt signed the Civilian Pilot Training Act of 1939 into law. The act authorized the Civil Aeronautics Authority to conduct a program for the training of civilian pilots through educational institutions and to prescribe pertinent regulations with the objective of providing sufficient training to prepare a student for a private pilot certificate. The act authorized $5,675,000 to be appropriated for the program during fiscal years 1939 and 1940, and specified that thereafter the appropriation should not exceed $7 million for any one fiscal year. The act was to expire on July 1, 1944. On the basis of this legislation, CAA’s program for the 1939-1940 school year called for training 11,000 civilian pilots, although considerably fewer were actually trained the first year. (See May 16, 1940, and December 12, 1941) In what proved to be an important development for African Americans in aviation, the act contained a provision introduced by Representative Everett M. Dirksen (R-IL) stipulating that “none of the benefits of training or programs shall be denied on account of race, creed, or color.”
Wednesday, June 28, 1939:Pan American Airways inaugurated the first regularly scheduled transatlantic passenger airline service by heavier-than-air craft (see May 19, 1939). A Boeing 314 flying boat made the flight from New York to the Azores, Lisbon, and Marseilles. Pan American opened passenger service between New York and Southhampton, England, on July 8. The outbreak of World War II in Europe soon forced curtailment of these routes, and by October 3, 1939, only the New York to Lisbon portion was operating. (See June 1, 1945.)
Thursday, July 6, 1939:Eastern Air Lines began the world’s first scheduled air mail service by a rotary winged aircraft, using a Kellet autogiro to fly from the roof of the Philadelphia Post Office to the airport at Camden, NJ. This experimental service lasted about one year. (See October 1, 1947.)
Saturday, August 19, 1939:National Aviation Day occurred for the first time on a continuing basis. In 1937, President Roosevelt had designated May 28 as National Aviation Day for that year only (see that date). No day had been designation in 1938. In a proclamation dated July 25, 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt applied this designation to August 19, 1939, and to August 19 of each succeeding year, in honor of Orville Wright’s birthdate. The proclamation was issued pursuant to Public Resolution No. 14, 76th Congress, approved May 11, 1939 (53 Stat. 739).
Friday, September 1, 1939:Germany invaded Poland, beginning World War II. (See December 7, 1941.)
Thursday, November 30, 1939:CAA issued Private Pilot’s License No. 93258 to Major Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. Army (Infantry), at Fort Lewis, WA. He had begun his flight training while on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines. Although he let his license expire, Eisenhower became the first Chief Executive to have held an airplane pilot’s license.
Saturday, December 2, 1939:New York Municipal Airport – La Guardia Field opened for commercial traffic on the improved site of the former Glenn H. Curtiss Airport at North Beach, Long Island, NY. The facility was renamed LaGuardia Airport in 1947.
Monday, December 4, 1939:At the direction of President Roosevelt, the Bureau of the Budget’s Division of Administrative Management began a study of the organization of the Civil Aeronautics Authority. The Bureau reported its findings to the President the following spring. Roosevelt approved the Bureau’s recommendations and transmitted them as Reorganization Plans III and IV to Congress in April, 1940, under the Reorganization Act of 1939. The plans would take effect 60 days after the President submitted them to Congress unless the House of Representatives and Senate passed a concurrent resolution stating that Congress did not approve the reorganization. Plan III involved the transfer of certain functions from the Authority to the Administrator. Plan IV included: combining the Authority and Air Safety Board into a new Civil Aeronautics Board with authority to prescribe and revise safety rules and to suspend or rescind the certificates of carriers and airmen; and transferring the Administrator to the Department of Commerce. While Plan III encountered no opposition in Congress, Plan IV attracted strong criticism and was voted down in the House. Ultimately, however, the Senate approved the plan on May 14, 1940, by a 46-34 vote. (See June 30, 1940.)
Calendar Year 1939:Extension of airways radio facilities into Alaska got underway.
Primary Sources:
Dated items along the left margin of the FAA History Pages were compiled from the series of FAA’s ‘Historical Chronology’ PDF files. For a list and links to uploaded copies of these PDF files, see aiReform’s ‘FAA History’ main page (link above).
Additional content has been compiled from Wikipedia and other sources; these items are presented along the right margin, and include significant accidents, Whistleblower case actions, various news items, ATC technology developments, links to related material, comments, etc. Further content will be added at a later date.