FAA History: 1969

Tuesday, January 7, 1969:FAA imposed additional airworthiness standards for small airplanes used in air taxi operations under Special Federal Aviation Regulation 23, effective this date. The standards applied to piston-powered and turboprop airplanes weighing 12,500 pounds or less and capable of carrying more than 10 occupants, including the flightcrew. (See September 7, 1964, and December 1, 1978.)
Wednesday, January 15, 1969:The U.S. Civil Service Commission (CSC) ruled that the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) was an employee organization, not a professional society, because it had sought and obtained a dues-withholding agreement. FAA had agreed to permit a voluntary payroll deduction plan for the payment of PATCO dues with the understanding that PATCO would remain a professional society. As a result of the CSC ruling, PATCO became subject to the Standards of Conduct and the Code of Fair Labor Practices. At the same time, however, PATCO became eligible for formal recognition as a labor bargaining organization under Executive Order 10988. (See July 19, 1968, and June 11, 1969.)
Wednesday, January 15, 1969:FAA adopted a method of regulating the flow of traffic into the Metropolitan New York area. The new procedures went into effect each time the delay forecast for IFR aircraft flying into New York exceeded one hour. When this happened, the flow of air traffic into New York was limited by keeping New York-bound aircraft on the ground at their points of departure. Though the new procedures did little or nothing to reduce the length of delays incurred by New York-bound aircraft, they did reduce the length of time spent in airborne holding patterns to an hour or less. This, in turn, reduced congestion on the airways leading to New York and facilitated the flow of non-New York traffic using or crossing these routes. (See July 19, 1968, and June 25, 1970.)
Wednesday, January 15, 1969:The Boeing Company submitted to FAA for evaluation a new supersonic transport (SST) configuration, a delta-wing design with a horizontal tail. A 100-person review team drawn from FAA, NASA, and the Defense Department found that Boeing had adequately integrated the new design.
In February, President Nixon appointed an interdepartmental committee headed by Under Secretary of Transportation James M. Beggs to review the SST program. The committee’s report, submitted in early April, contained mixed views on the program’s future. Secretary of Transportation Volpe, however, continued to advise in favor of the program.
On September 23, 1969, Nixon announced that the SST development program would be continued because the project was essential to maintaining U.S. leadership in world air transport. The President requested Congress to appropriate $96 million during fiscal year 1970 ($662 million over a five-year period, fiscal 1970 through fiscal 1974) to pursue the program. (See October 21, 1968, and April 6, 1970.)
Monday, January 20, 1969:Richard M. Nixon became President, succeeding Lyndon B. Johnson.
Wednesday, January 22, 1969:John A. Volpe became Secretary of Transportation, succeeding Alan S. Boyd (see January 16, 1967), who had resigned with the change in administrations. Volpe, a successful building contractor, had served as Governor of Massachusetts. (See February 2, 1973.)
Monday, January 27, 1969:Under an FAA contract, the University of Ohio initiated a five-year study seeking to improve the overall capabilities of the existing instrument landing system, giving particular attention to interference problems. The contractor examined existing criteria for controlling taxiing aircraft on or near ILS runways and also examined criteria for taxi-strip and warmup-area construction. This part of the study had largely been prompted by the introduction of the Boeing 747 and the Lockheed C-5A, which, because of their size, could seriously interfere with ILS signals. Another part of the study dealt with the possible effects of hangars, buildings, powerlines, and terrain on electronic signals. A computer manufacturer developed a mathematical model and a generalized computer program for predicting these effects for the study.
January 1969:Eight U.S. airliners were hijacked to Cuba during the month (see February 21, 1968). In February, FAA created an eight-man Task Force on the Deterrence of Air Piracy that combined a broad spectrum of expertise under the leadership of the Deputy Federal Air Surgeon (see August 3, 1970). Systematic study by the Task Force revealed that a hijacker “profile” could be constructed from behavioral characteristics shared by past perpetrators. When used in conjunction with a magnetometer weapons-screening device developed by the agency, the profile system offered a promising method of preventing potential hijackers from boarding aircraft. On October 15, FAA announced that Eastern Air Lines was using the system at several key locations. By June 15, 1970, four U.S. air carriers were employing the system. (See July 17, 1970.)
Tuesday, February 4, 1969:The XB-70 supersonic research aircraft made its final flight, from Edwards AFB, CA, to Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, where it was placed on exhibit in the Air Force Museum. (See March 25, 1967.)
Sunday, February 9, 1969:The Boeing 747, the first of the wide-body jetliners, made its initial flight. On September 30, 1968, Boeing had unveiled the large subsonic jet, which was powered by four Pratt & Whitney JT9D-3 turbofan engines, each rated at 43,500 pounds of thrust. The plane had a maximum takeoff weight of 710,000 pounds and a maximum payload of 220,000 pounds. Its seating capacity ranged up to 490 passengers, although most airlines planned a seating configuration in the 350-365 range. FAA certificated the 747 on December 30, 1969. Pan American World Airways, which on April 13, 1966, had placed the first order for the 747s at a cost of $525 million for 25, became the first airline to operate the new wide-body as the 747 entered service with a takeoff from New York for London on January 22, 1970. Trans World Airlines inaugurated the first transcontinental 747 service, between Los Angeles and New York, on February 25, 1970.
Thursday, February 20, 1969:Theodore C. Uebel, an FAA International Liaison Officer, received the first International Aviation Service Award. The award, which recognized singular achievements in advancing the cause of international aviation, was financed by private donations from FAA employees.
Friday, February 21, 1969:To keep pace with the growth of the U.S. civil aviation fleet, FAA expanded the number of aircraft identification numbers available. The identification numbers continued to consist of the prefix letter “N”, followed by not more than five symbols. These symbols could consist of all numerals (e.g., N10000), or of one to four numerals with a suffix letter (e.g., N1000A). In the past, FAA had sometimes also assigned identification numbers with one to three numerals and two suffix letters (e.g, N100AB), but only to fulfill certain special requests. Now, however, FAA permitted the unrestricted issuance of these identification numbers consisting of one to three numerals and two suffix letters. This change increased the number of available identification numbers from about 339,000 to about 739,000.
Thursday, February 27, 1969:FAA launched the Experimental Aviation Technology Education Project in cooperation with a number of institutions of higher learning to establish college-level programs responsive to the manpower needs of the aviation community and FAA. Curriculums at the institutions combined broad liberal arts educational subjects and aviation-oriented academic study with on-the-job experience at FAA facilities. After a two-year test period at 15 schools, FAA removed this program from the experimental stage, renamed the work study program, and transferred it from the Washington Headquarters to FAA’s Regional Offices.
Wednesday, March 5, 1969:A Puerto Rico International Airlines (PRINAIR) de Havilland 114 Heron crashed near San Juan, PR, killing all 19 persons aboard. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) listed the probable cause as the vectoring of the aircraft into mountainous terrain by a controller performing beyond the safe limits of his performance capability and without adequate supervision. NTSB noted that a routine psychological test in 1966 had suggested that the controller suffered from high anxiety and low stress tolerance. He then received psychiatric and psychological examinations, after which the regional flight surgeon pronounced him fit for duty. NTSB concluded the controller’s problems with anxiety and stress, in combination with other factors, might have caused his inadequate duty performance. NTSB therefore recommended that FAA expand the psychiatric and psychological assessment of controllers, and place such assessment under the strict supervision of qualified psychiatrists and psychologists. In reply, FAA pointed to the appointment of a panel of psychiatrists and psychologists to assist the Federal Air Surgeon.
Friday, March 7, 1969:A Civil Aeronautics Board rule effective this date imposed the first Federal requirement for air taxi operators to carry liability insurance covering passengers as well as persons and property on the ground. The minimum coverage was $75,000 per person and $100,000 for property damage.
Thursday, March 20, 1969:FAA published a proposal to require air taxis and small aircraft flown by commercial operators to carry crash locator beacons and other survival equipment. FAA’s proposal referred to public and congressional concern generated in recent years by accidents in which survivors had perished because rescuers could not locate the crash site. The agency also noted the expansion of air taxi operations to include larger aircraft over longer routes, and the disappearance in February 1969 of a DC-3 on an air taxi flight from Hawthorne, NV. (See February 26, 1968, and December 29, 1970.)
Monday, March 24, 1969:John H. Shaffer became the fourth FAA Administrator, succeeding William F. McKee (see July 1, 1965). President Nixon had nominated Shaffer on March 6 and the Senate confirmed the nomination on March 20. Born in Everett, PA, in 1919, Shaffer earned his wings while still at West Point. Graduating in January 1943, at the height of World War II, he went on to fly 46 combat missions as a B-26 pilot with the 9th Air Forces in Europe. In 1946, while still in uniform, he earned an M.S. degree from Columbia University. This was followed by successive assignments as production project officer of the Army Air Forces B-50 program (1946-48) and weapons system program manager of the Air Force’s B-47 program (1948-54). In January 1954, he resigned his Air Force commission with the rank of lieutenant colonel to become general production manager and assistant plant manager of the Ford Motor Company’s Mercury assembly plant in Metuchen, NJ. Three years later, he joined TRW, Inc., an aerospace conglomerate. Shaffer resigned his position as corporate vice president (customer requirements) of TRW to become FAA Administrator, a post which he held for nearly four years. He resigned, as part of a broad Nixon Administration reorganization, effective March 14, 1973 (see that date). After leaving FAA, Shaffer remained active in aviation as a consultant and served as a board member of several companies. He died on September 14, 1997.
Thursday, March 27, 1969:FAA created an Equal Opportunity Staff, headed by a Director of Equal Opportunity, and transferred the equal opportunity and civil rights functions of the Office of Compliance and Security to the new staff. On May 19, 1969, the staff became the Office of Civil Rights. The head of the office, who reported directly to the Administrator, was titled the Director of Civil Rights (later the Assistant Administrator for Civil Rights). The new office’s responsibilities included assuring: that FAA offered equal opportunities to all employees eligible for advancement and all qualified job applicants; that employment practices of FAA contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers, and recipients of FAA grants-in-aid conformed with Federal civil rights regulations; and that FAA programs and activities affecting housing and urban development were consistent with the fair housing provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. FAA’s action was in response to a call by the Secretary of Transportation to “do everything the letter and the spirit of the law provide in order to make equal opportunity a reality.” An Office of Civil Rights had been established in the Office of the Secretary on December 14, 1968.
Friday, March 28, 1969:The first charter flight from the United States to the Soviet Union departed New York via an Overseas National Airways aircraft. On June 6, 1970, Alaska Airlines inaugurated the first of a series of charter flights from Anchorage to Khabarovsk, U.S.S.R.
Wednesday, April 23, 1969:FAA abolished the Kenai and Cordova (Alaska) Area Offices. The Anchorage and Juneau Area Offices absorbed the territory formerly served by these offices. (See June 20, 1968 and February 27, 1970.)
April 23-25, 1969:More than 800 aviation community representatives attended the first National Aviation System Planning Review Conference, held in Washington, DC. The conference featured seminars covering subjects discussed in FAA’s first 10-year National Aviation System Plan (1970-79). In preparing the following year’s version of the Plan, FAA reviewed the views expressed at the seminars, together with documented proposals submitted by the aviation community. The conference was held on an annual basis as a forum for government/industry discussion of FAA’s long-range plans and policies.
Sunday, April 27, 1969:The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced the retirement of the two extant X-15 rocket research aircraft. The X-15 had first flown on June 8, 1959; it made its final flight on October 24, 1968. (See October 3, 1967.)
April 1969:FAA launched an automated airport data system for collecting, processing, and disseminating data on all civil and joint-use airports, heliports, Short Takeoff and Landing airports, and seaplane bases in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The system, capable of storing up to 137 data elements for each landing facility, would provide data for use in pilot briefings, flight planning, airspace clearance, airport planning, and aeronautical chart production.
April 1969:FAA issued a report recommending ways of relieving congestion at 18 of the nation’s busiest airports. The short-range recommendations included improving traffic flow on the airfield through additional runway exits, access taxiways, holding and staging aprons, and expanded terminal aprons, and creating additional runway capacity through runway extension and grooving. Long-range recommendations included: review of noise-abatement procedures and restrictions; construction of new general aviation airports and new air carrier airports; installation of NAVAIDs; and installation of landing aids at reliever airports to attract general aviation traffic.
Monday, May 5, 1969:FAA announced the establishment of two new engineering and manufacturing district offices — one in Kansas City, MO, and one in Chicago — bringing the nationwide total of such offices to 21. From these offices, FAA’s manufacturing inspectors worked with companies and individuals seeking certification or approval of airframes, aircraft engines, propellers, parts, or appliances for use in civil aviation.
Thursday, May 8, 1969:The Martin Marietta X-24A rocket-powered, manned, lifting-body research aircraft made a successful 4-minute glider (unpowered) flight at Edwards AFB, CA. The X-24A was released from underneath the wing of a B-52 Stratofortress at 45,000 feet. The aircraft made its first powered flight on March 19, 1970. Development of the X-24A came as part of Martin Marietta’s program to develop a maneuvering manned re-entry vehicle able to perform as a spacecraft in orbit, fly in Earth’s atmosphere like an aircraft, and land at conventional airports.
Wednesday, May 14, 1969:Hamburger Flugzeubau GmbH and Messerschmitt-Bolkow GmbH merged to form Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm, the largest aerospace concern in Germany.
Thursday, May 22, 1969:Administrator Shaffer requested plans for consolidating regional and area offices located in the same city within the contiguous United States. The move offered operating economies and the saving of numerous positions that could be used to fill critical “firing line” position shortages. FAA implemented the consolidations during late summer 1969, and completed the transfer of functions and personnel to the appropriate regional divisions on September 8. The agency eliminated the area officers in Atlanta, Fort Worth, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and New York as they gave up their functions and resources to the regional headquarters located in the same city. (See November 22, 1968 and April 2, 1971.)
Sunday, June 1, 1969:The shifting of the New York common IFR room from a manual radar system to a computerized alphanumeric radar system further enhanced the traffic-handling capabilities of the New York terminal area. The semiautomated system permitted an aircraft equipped with a beacon transponder to provide the terminal controller automatically with information on its identity, altitude, range, and bearing. Under the old system, the controller could obtain an aircraft’s altitude and identity only through voice contact with the aircraft’s pilot. (See July 15, 1968.)
Sunday, June 1, 1969:In response to growing congestion, FAA implemented a rule placing quotas on instrument flight rule (IFR) operations at five of the nation’s busiest airports between 6 a.m. and midnight. The rule assigned the following hourly quotas: Kennedy International, 80 (70 for air carriers and supplementals; 5 for scheduled air taxis; 5 for general aviation); O’Hare, 135 (115 for air carriers and supplementals; 10 for scheduled air taxis; 10 for general aviation); La Guardia, 60 (48 for air carriers and supplementals; 6 for scheduled air taxis; 6 for general aviation); Newark, 60 (40 for air carriers and supplementals; 10 for scheduled air taxis; 10 for general aviation); Washington National, 60 (40 for air carriers and supplementals; 8 for scheduled air taxis; 12 for general aviation). The rule did not charge extra sections of scheduled air carrier flights (such as hourly shuttle flights) against the established quotas, except at Kennedy; this airport, however, was permitted 10 extra air carrier operations per hour during the peak traffic period between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
IFR flights were required to make advanced reservations for each operation. Pilots obtained IFR reservations by contacting the Airport Reservation Office (established May 30, 1969) in Washington, DC, or any FAA flight service station. Aircraft under visual flight rules (VFR) made arrival reservations in the air when approximately 30 miles from their intended destination. Departure reservations for such aircraft were handled by the air traffic control facilities serving these five high-density airports.
Originally implemented for a six-month period, this “High Density Rule” was subsequently extended to October 25, 1970. On that date, the hourly limitations on operations were suspended at Newark, where peak operations during fiscal 1970 had averaged 18 less than the assigned quota of 60. At the same time, the quotas were extended for another year at the other four airports. In taking this action, FAA noted that the percentage of aircraft delays at the five airports had decreased substantially since the rule was put into effect.
On August 24, 1971, FAA published an amendment extending the High Density Rule until October 25, 1972. Flight limitations remained unchanged at LaGuardia and Washington National, but at O’Hare and Kennedy the quotas were now in effect only between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. The relaxation was due in part to a decline in aviation activity during a general downturn in the U.S. economy.
An amendment published on October 25, 1972, extended the High Density Rule until the same date in 1973, when another amendment was published giving it an indefinite extension. At the same time, FAA eliminated the requirement that pilots operating under visual flight rules at all five airports file a flight plan. FAA believed this requirement was no longer necessary since these airports were now operating under the terminal control area concept, which required pilots to establish radio communications with the tower and receive permission to enter the terminal airspace. (See March 23, 1978, November 3, 1980, and March 6, 1984.)
Wednesday, June 4, 1969:FAA and the Central American Corporation for Air Navigation Services (COCESNA) signed a contract under which FAA would provide technical assistance for air navigation and traffic control services to COCESNA, a five-nation governmental group whose members were Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. FAA had traditionally provided technical assistance to Latin American countries under the sponsorship of the State Department’s Agency for International Development; however, this was the first time FAA provided such services to these countries under a direct reimbursable contract.
Wednesday, June 11, 1969:Russell J. Sommer, PATCO’s Western Coordinator, notified PATCO Southwest delegates of upcoming FAA testimony before Congress on a PATCO-supported controller career bill. “If testimony not favorable,” Sommer wrote, “D-Day June 18th!” In opposing the bill before a congressional committee on June 17, FAA Administrator John Shaffer characterized controllers as “well-paid” considering their educational level. That evening, PATCO counsel F. Lee Bailey appeared on the NBC “Tonight Show” and reportedly told host Johnny Carson, “I’d start walking if I were you.” (See January 15, 1969, and June 18-20, 1969.)
Monday, June 16, 1969:FAA commissioned the Anchorage air route traffic control center’s new building, located on Elmendorf AFB. Formal dedication ceremonies were on August 21, 1969.
Monday, June 16, 1969:The Nixon Administration submitted to Congress the Aviation Facilities Expansion Bill of 1969, proposed legislation to expand and improve the nation’s airway and airport systems and to provide revenue to support this expansion. Similar legislation had been submitted to Congress by President Johnson (see May 20, 1968), but was not acted on. Features of the Nixon Administration’s proposals included:
  • Increasing the outlay for airway facilities and equipment to $250 million a year over the next 10 years. (During the decade of the sixties, annual appropriations for airway facilities and equipment averaged $93 million.)
  • Increasing the average yearly Federal outlay for airport development to $250 million over the next 10 years. (In the past, Congress had appropriated approximately $65 million a year in FAAP funds.)
  • Imposing (1) an 8 percent tax on domestic airline passenger tickets; (2) a $3 surcharge on passenger tickets for international flights originating in the United States; (3) a 5 percent tax on air-freight waybills; and (4) a 9-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline and jet fuel used by general aviation aircraft.
  • Placing the revenues generated by the new taxes in a designated account in the U.S. Treasury to be used exclusively for airway and airport development. (See September 20, 1967, and May 21, 1970.)
June 18-20, 1969:Numerous FAA facilities felt the effects of a work stoppage by PATCO-affiliated air traffic controllers, who claimed illness and did not report for work. The “sickout,” which resulted in widespread flight delays, coincided with congressional hearings on legislation to provide higher pay, early retirement, and other benefits for controllers. Of 477 controllers who took sick leave during the job action, FAA suspended 80 from three to fifteen days. On July 27, FAA terminated its dues-withholding agreement with PATCO, stating that it was not in the public interest to assist an organization taking part in an illegal job action. (See June 11, 1969, and October 27, 1969.)
Thursday, June 19, 1969:FAA redesignated the Office of Information Services the Office of Public Affairs, which had been its original name when Agency Order 1 was issued in January 1959. The Information Services title had been adopted in the early 1960s.
Friday, June 27, 1969:FAA announced the commissioning of its first Uninterruptible Power System, designed to control power failures and fluctuations that caused errors in high speed data processing equipment and affected radar and communications. Installing this system at the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center was the initial step in an FAA-wide electric power modernization program for the en route centers. (See November 9-10, 1965, and September 19, 1974.)
Monday, June 30, 1969:Fiscal year 1969, which ended on this date, saw a dramatic increase in Alaskan air activity following the discovery of oil in the Prudhoe Bay area of the state’s North Slope. The Fairbanks Flight Service Station (FSS), for example, experienced a 325 percent rise in flight services performed. On the North Slope itself, services performed by the Point Barrow FSS rose 500 percent during the period, to 17,221, while the number performed by the Bettles FSS rose 87 percent to 16,168. In order to accommodate this traffic, FAA and oil companies drilling in the area collaborated to bolster the air traffic facilities on the Slope. The oil companies built six new airfields, and both FAA and the companies furnished NAVAIDs to serve the area. (See March 1, 1968.)
Tuesday, July 1, 1969:Effective this date, CAB selected “commuter air carrier” as its name for certain scheduled air taxi operators (see Calendar Year 1968). The new title “commuter” applied to an air taxi operator that performed at least five round trips per week between two or more points and published flight schedules giving certain specified information, or transported air mail under a current contract. There were 138 commuter operators in 1969, and an average of 180 during the 1970s. The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 encouraged the commuter airlines, which gained opportunities as many larger operators dropped service that they had been required to supply to smaller communities. By 1981, an estimated 270 commuter airlines were operating in the contiguous United States. Like the local service airlines before them (see July 11, 1944), the commuters began referring to themselves as “regionals” as they grew more prominent. The term “regionals” was also part of a revenue-based classification system adopted by CAB on October 2, 1980 (see that date). (See September 17, 1972.)
Sunday, July 6, 1969:A Beech 99 operated by Air South crashed near Monroe, GA, killing all 14 persons aboard the aircraft. In an accident report adopted on August 26, 1970, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cited the probable cause as “an unwanted change in longitudinal trim which resulted in a nose-down high-speed flight condition that was beyond the physical capability of the pilots to overcome.” NTSB stated that the design of the aircraft flight control system was conducive to malfunctions that could lead to a loss of control.
The Beech 99 had been type-certificated under FAA’s delegated option authority program (see September 29, 1950). Under this procedure, manufacturers of aircraft under 12,500 lb. were authorized to submit information that was used by FAA as a basis for certification. The NTSB report stated that FAA normally participated in flight tests only when a new regulation was applied to an aircraft, or when the manufacturer produced a new design feature that it had not previously certificated. The Beech 99’s trimmable stabilizer was such a new feature, but FAA had not participated in flight-testing this item. NTSB recommended that FAA participate directly in the certification of all newly designed aircraft components. FAA replied that it participated directly in delegation option authority certification when deemed necessary, but had judged the design concept in question to be of high integrity. After subsequent reevaluation, the agency required numerous improvements to the component. In response to other NTSB recommendations, FAA revised its type certification handbook to assure proper consideration of information gained from accident investigations and took other steps to improve certification procedures.
Friday, July 11, 1969:DOT consolidated the Washington Headquarters libraries of FAA, the Coast Guard, and the Federal Highway Administration and established the Department of Transportation Library. A service branch, primarily containing aviation-related materials, was located in FAA’s Washington Headquarters’ building.
Tuesday, July 15, 1969:FAA issued a study of near midair collisions. To encourage the reporting of such incidents, FAA had granted pilots and other airmen immunity from penalties under the Federal Aviation Regulations (see January 1, 1968). This study found that most of the reported near miss incidents of 1968 that were judged to be hazardous had occurred in congested airspace near large airports having air traffic control service, and resulted from mixing controlled traffic with traffic under visual flight rules.
On July 31, 1969, on the heels of FAA’s report, the National Transportation Safety Board released a study of actual midair collisions, which was also based on incidents occurring in 1968. In contrast to FAA’s findings on near misses, the Board found that the majority of the 38 real collisions had taken place in uncongested airspace at or near airports without air traffic control service. There was no evidence that adverse weather was a significant factor in any of the 38 accidents. All of the 71 persons killed in the collisions were occupants of general aviation aircraft. A general aviation aircraft was involved in each accident, with three collisions involving air carrier aircraft and one military airplane. On December 4, 1969, FAA’s near miss reporting program was extended for an additional two years (see December 31, 1971).
Sunday, July 20, 1969:Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., became the first people to land on the Moon, while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit. Later in the day, Armstrong and then Aldrin became the first to walk on the lunar surface. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Project Apollo achieved five more Moon landings between this date and December 11, 1972.
Monday, July 21, 1969:The pilots of Piedmont Airlines went on strike when the company moved to reduce its Boeing 737 cockpit crew to two men. On August 14, 1969, Piedmont secured a Federal injunction ordering its pilots back to work. The dispute raged for months, but was eventually resolved when the pilots accepted a two-man crew complement in exchange for higher pay. The Air Line Pilots Association refused to sign the agreement, although it took no action against Piedmont pilots for violating its constitution (see November 20-29, 1966). Piedmont permanently switched to two-man crews on its 737s on January 9, 1973. (See July 25, 1967 and November 23, 1971.)
Friday, August 8, 1969:Secretary of Transportation John A. Volpe established an Air Traffic Controller Career Committee, a seven-member group headed by professional consultant John J. Corson. The committee was to inquire into the controller career field and report its findings and recommendations to the Secretary. Topics to be investigated included employment practices, employee compensation, work environment, training, and employee-management relations. The committee was instructed to give special attention to the controller’s occupational stresses. (See January 29, 1970.)
Friday, August 29, 1969:In the first hijacking of a U.S. aircraft outside of the Western Hemisphere, two Arabs seized control of a TWA 707 bound for Israel and diverted it to Syria, where they deplaned the occupants and then threw hand grenades into the cockpit area (see Calendar Year 1969).
Friday, September 5, 1969:An FAA rule concerning the flight hazards associated with flying contraband drugs between Mexico and the United States went into effect. The rule made such illegal activity grounds for suspension or revocation of pilot certificates and of the operating certificates of aircraft owners or lessors knowingly involved. The rule also required all pilots to file flight plans and radio positions when operating civil aircraft between the two countries. Pilots without two-way radios were required to land at the nearest designated airport of entry and file an arrival notice. In proposing the rule on August 1, FAA had cited President Nixon’s July 14 announcement of a government-wide campaign against drug smuggling. The agency stated that any pilot attempting to evade this increased enforcement effort could be expected to engage in such hazardous practices as very low flight to avoid radar or use of unprepared landing sites. Effective August 1, 1973, FAA extended its ban on illicit carraige of drugs by air to domestic flights and to flights between the United States and Canada.
Tuesday, September 9, 1969:A midair collision near Fairland, IN, killed all 83 people aboard the aircraft involved, an Allegheny Airlines DC-9 and a Piper PA-28. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) listed the probable cause as deficiencies of the air traffic control system in a terminal area with mixed instrument flight rules (IFR) and visual flight rules (VFR) traffic. The cited deficiencies included the inadequacy of the see-and-avoid concept under the circumstances, lack of regulations to provide an adequate separation system for mixed VFR/IFR traffic in terminal areas, and the technical limitations of radar in detecting all aircraft. In response to NTSB recommendations, FAA agreed to expedite research into enhancing radar detection through a passive device to be carried by smaller aircraft. Meanwhile, the agency moved toward greatly improved radar detection by requirements for radar beacons (transponders) aboard aircraft in designated terminal areas (see June 25, 1970).
Wednesday, October 1, 1969:Sixteen area navigation routes opened between 11 U.S. cities on an interim basis pending formal rulemaking. The new routes were the first in a projected nationwide area navigation route system designed to increase airway capacity. They ran between the following cities: Chicago and New York (two routes); Los Angeles and Chicago (two); Kansas City and Minneapolis (two); San Francisco and Chicago (two); Atlanta and Pinehurst, NC (two); Knoxville and Atlanta (two); Houston and Dallas (four). In succeeding months, additional cities were linked as more routes were developed (see April 29, 1971). The primary air navigation system in use in the United States in 1969 required pilots to fly directly toward or away from the ground-based radio navigation aid (a VOR or VORTAC) transmitting a line of position, or radial. With area navigation, aircraft did not have to fly a track to or from a NAVAID, though they did depend on signals from VORs or VORTACs. Pilots flying appropriately equipped aircraft could, within the limitations of the system, follow any preselected arbitrary track. An airborne computer calculated the aircraft’s position and displayed track and distance to a point selected by the pilot or prescribed by the controller. The system’s advantages included: routes could be established along the shortest and most convenient paths; parallel and one-way routes could be established to reduce congestion; aircraft could be segregated according to speed and destination; NAVAIDs could be placed at accessible points on more favorable terrain; departure routes could be designed to lead directly from the runway to the appropriate parallel airway; and arrival routes could be designed to accept traffic directly from en route airways. (See March 6, 1972.)
Monday, October 27, 1969:FAA denied PATCO’s request for formal recognition because of its participation in the recent “sickout” (see June 18-20). On October 29, however, President Nixon issued Executive Order 11491, replacing Executive Order 10988 as the basis for Federal employee-management relations. The order, which went into effect on January 1, 1970, gave the Labor Department authority to grant exclusive recognition to Federal unions. (See February 18, 1970.)
Tuesday, October 28, 1969:Executive Order 11490 (“Assigning Emergency Preparedness Functions to Federal Departments and Agencies”) consolidated and superseded over 20 previous directives, including Executive Order 11003, which had dealt with FAA’s preparedness functions. (See January 9, 1961.)
Thursday, October 30, 1969:FAA dedicated its new Systems Training Building at the Aeronautical Center. In addition to classrooms for air traffic control and systems maintenance personnel training, the building contained simulators, computers, and other equipment used in training FAA personnel.
Friday, October 31, 1969:Rafael Minichiello, a U.S. Marine absent without leave, commandeered a TWA 707 bound for San Francisco and embarked on a 17-hour journey that ended in Rome, Italy. The first hijacker to force a crew to land and refuel repeatedly, Minichiello received worldwide publicity that included some sympathetic coverage (see Calendar Year 1969).
Saturday, November 15, 1969:Air taxi operators of large aircraft became subject to stricter operational requirements applying to supplemental air carriers. (See September 7, 1964, and December 1, 1978.)
Tuesday, November 18, 1969:FAA changed the title of the Office of Compliance and Security to the Office of Investigations and Security. (See May 16, 1962 and August 3, 1970.)
Saturday, November 22, 1969:Effective this date, FAA increased minimum flight-time requirements for an airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate from 1,200 to 1,500 hours. All flight time logged as second-in-command in airline operations would be credited toward the ATP certificate, as would a limited amount of flight engineer time.
Wednesday, November 26, 1969:The Beech Aircraft Corporation delivered its last Model 18 aircraft. The original Model 18 first flew on January 15, 1937, and was type-certificated on March 4, 1937. When production of the plane ceased, the Model 18 had been in continuous production longer than any other aircraft.
Monday, December 1, 1969:Effective this date, FAA added a new Part 36 to the Federal Aviation Regulations that established allowable engine-noise levels as part of the criteria for transport aircraft type-certification. The new rule had been published on November 18, 1969, and was the first issued under Public Law 90-411 (see July 21, 1968). The rule applied to two classes of aircraft for which an application for a type certificate was made after January 1, 1967: all subsonic aircraft in the transport category, and all subsonic turbojets regardless of category. The allowable noise levels varied with aircraft size and type, ranging from 93 to 108 effective perceived noise decibels (EPNdB). The noise limits also varied according to the type of aircraft operation: between 102 and 108 EPNdB on approach, and between 93 and 108 EPNdB during takeoff. The agency further limited sideline noise — i.e., noise along the runway or taxiway during idling or taxiing — to a range between 102 and 108 EPNdB. (See October 26, 1973.)
Thursday, December 4, 1969:Dulles International Airport banned student pilot operations because of the rising traffic volume at the airport.
Thursday, December 4, 1969:The Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, popularly known as the Tokyo Convention, went into force among ratifying countries. The United States had ratified the agreement on September 5, 1969, completing the 12 ratifications required to bring it into force 90 days later. Though ineffectual against the hijacking of aircraft to nonsignatory or nonratifying countries, the convention was a forward step in its clarifying of jurisdiction over crimes aboard aircraft anywhere in the world. It afforded a useful framework within which an international or diplomatic solution to aircraft piracy could be pursued. Denmark, the Republic of China, Italy, Norway, the Philippines, Portugal, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Upper Volta, Mexico, and Niger ratified the convention before the United States. A dozen more countries ratified the convention soon after the United States and over 130 eventually became party to it. (See September 14, 1963, and October 14, 1970.)
Friday, December 5, 1969:The Legal Committee of the United Nations General Assembly voted a resolution urging governments to prosecute aircraft hijackers, and urged member states without laws against aircraft piracy to enact such legislation.
Friday, December 5, 1969:FAA announced a major program to expand and modernize the physical plants of 20 air route traffic control centers in the contiguous United States to accommodate the personnel and equipment needed to handle the increasing volume of air traffic. The basic plan of the modernization program called for an additional three-story administrative wing at each center to provide space for training and administration. Space would also be provided for the automated air traffic control systems being delivered to the centers, for additional engine generators, and for future expansion of mechanical, electrical, and communications systems. The plant modernization program would continue through the early 1970s.
Monday, December 15, 1969:American Airlines began the nation’s first use of three-dimensional area navigation equipment on regularly scheduled passenger service. In June 1968, American had inaugurated scheduled passenger operations using an inertial navigation system; however, it was only a two-dimensional system, not equipped with the ascent-descent feature. (See October 1, 1969.)
Thursday, December 18, 1969:FAA certificated the first all-plastic aircraft, the Windecker AC-7, a four-place craft made of moulded fiberglass and epoxy resins.
Monday, December 29, 1969:FAA abolished the Honolulu Area Office and transferred its functions to the regional office.
December 1969:The Air Traffic Control Advisory Committee (see July 17, 1968) submitted its report to the Secretary of Transportation. The committee saw a continued rise in the demand for air traffic control services during the decades ahead, and stated that if FAA expected to accommodate the anticipated growth in aviation traffic, three critical problems required solutions: the shortage of terminal capacity; the need for new means of assuring separation; and the limited capacity and increasing cost of air traffic control. The committee believed that major improvements in airport capacity could be achieved through the use of parallel runways, high speed turnoffs, advanced terminal automation, and reduced longitudinal separation between aircraft on final approach for landing. For the safe separation of aircraft, the report recommended further efforts to upgrade radar beacon transponders for tracking aircraft on radar. The committee believed that the midair collision problem could be overcome in airspace under radar surveillance by automating and making more precise the air traffic control advisory service. The report also noted that a higher level of automation would enable the system to handle perhaps two or three times the 1969 traffic with the same controller work force. This higher automation might be achieved by expanding NAS En Route Stage A and ARTS III version of the Automated Radar Terminal System to include spacing, sequencing, and conflict prediction/resolution, and by adding data link. The committee’s report, which was made public in May 1970, also recommended rapid development of the Microwave Landing System (see June 19, 1970).
December 1969:Eastern Air Lines put into operation at its terminal at Kennedy International Airport the first computerized system for issuing seat assignments and boarding passes to airline passengers as they checked in at the airport.
Calendar Year 1969:Worldwide concern focused on hijacking as the number of aircraft involved in such incidents during the year totaled 87, as compared to 37 for 1968. The number of U.S. aircraft involved was 40, as compared to 47 foreign aircraft. (In 1968, 22 out of a total of 35 incidents involved U.S. aircraft.)
Cuba remained the most popular destination for hijackers during 1969: 31 U.S. and 25 foreign air carrier aircraft, as well as one foreign general aviation aircraft, were forced to land there. But the year also saw a break in the diversion-to-Cuba pattern when 11 foreign and 2 U.S. air carrier aircraft were forced to land in other countries. (See August 29 and October 31, 1969.) For U.S. aircraft, the only previous hijacking completed to a destination other than Cuba had been an August 31, 1965, incident in which an airliner was forced to return to Honolulu shortly after takeoff.
1960s:The number of U.S. civil aircraft possessing current airworthiness certificates increased 89 percent during the decade, from 70,747 on December 31, 1959, to 133,814 on December 31, 1969. The general aviation fleet increased 90 percent (from 68,727 to 130,806), while air carrier aircraft increased 49 percent (from 2,020 to 3,008).
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.