FAA History: 1971

Friday, January 15, 1971:The Federal Aviation Administration transferred jurisdiction over its field offices and facilities in Kentucky from the Eastern Region Area Office at Cleveland to the Southern Region headquarters at Atlanta.
Friday, January 29, 1971:The Department of Labor stripped PATCO of its status as a labor organization because it had called a strike against the Federal government. PATCO was required to post a notice declaring that it would not engage in illegal job actions before it could be considered eligible for recognition as a labor organization. PATCO took this and other steps to comply with the Labor Department’s decision. On June 4, the Department decided that PATCO was eligible to seek recognition as a labor organization under Executive Order 11491. Three days later, PATCO filed a new petition with Labor for exclusive recognition as the national representative for all air traffic controllers. (See September 10, 1970, and February 7, 1972.)
Friday, January 29, 1971:The Nixon administration proposed the sale of Washington National and Dulles International Airports in the Budget of the United States Government for fiscal year 1972. The Government asked $105 million for the two airports and made the sale subject to the approval of the Congress. (See October 30, 1986.)
Thursday, February 4, 1971:FAA instituted the new “Keep-‘Em-High” program to reduce noise in the vicinity of the nation’s airports. Under the program, which had been announced in October 1970, the agency instructed controllers to keep flights as high as possible during landings and takeoffs, delaying turbojet aircraft in their final descent until relatively close to their destination airport and climbing them out as rapidly as possible after takeoff. Where aircraft performance capabilities and considerations of passenger safety and comfort permitted, FAA required turbojet aircraft to be kept at 10,000 feet or higher until within 30 miles of the airport. By July 1, 1971, the program had been implemented at 387 airports, nearly all those airports serving scheduled air carrier and turbojet aircraft. (See December 4, 1967, and August 1, 1972.)
Thursday, February 4, 1971:FAA permanently established a terminal control area (TCA) for Washington, DC (the Washington National/Andrews Air Force Base complex). A TCA had been established earlier for this location, on August 20, 1970, but rescinded the following day because of operational problems. The agency established a revised version on October 1, 1970, but adherence was purely voluntary until made mandatory by the February 4, 1971, rule. The Washington TCA was the third to be established. Two more TCAs were established on September 16, 1971, one for Los Angeles and one for the New York City airport complex. (See June 25, 1970 and January 1, 1974).
Tuesday, February 23, 1971:The Secretary of Transportation established a Transportation Safety Institute (TSI) at FAA’s Aeronautical Center, Oklahoma City. Although initially operated by FAA, this school provided training in the investigation of accidents and incidents in all modes of transportation, and in related regulatory matters. In 1977, TSI became part of the new Research and Special Programs Administration (see September 23, 1977.) The establishment of TSI followed the dissolution of the National Aircraft Accident Investigation School (NAAIS), which had been originally operated as a joint venture at the FAA Academy (see September 30, 1963) by FAA and the Civil Aeronautics Board. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) assumed CAB’s share of responsibility for the school when NTSB took over CAB’s aircraft accident investigation functions on April 1, 1967. Subsequently, however, FAA decided to include enforcement-oriented training as part of the curriculum at NAAIS. As this added training would not be consistent with NTSB’s mission, FAA and NTSB agreed to dissolve NAIS as of January 31, 1971. (On March 4, NTSB established its own National Aircraft Accident Investigation School at Dulles International Airport.)
Tuesday, March 2, 1971:The Civil Aeronautics Board approved the merger of Trans Caribbean Airways into American Airlines, effective this date. Trans Caribbean had begun as a charter carrier in December 1945, and had begun scheduled service between New York and Puerto Rico in March 1958.
Friday, March 5, 1971:DOT released the report of its investigation of air charter and leasing companies undertaken following an accident on October 2, 1970 (see that date). The investigating task force determined the key problem was the difficulty of enforcing the distinction in the safety regulations between large-airplane operators in private carriage for compensation or hire and other large-airplane operations in private carriage. Among the group’s recommendations were: distributing to universities and other organizations flyers explaining the differences between leasing an aircraft and hiring a charter; incorporating a truth-in-leasing clause in leases; and requiring that all large and complex airplanes be operated and maintained at a safety level comparable to that of air carriers. FAA immediately carried out the recommendation on the distribution of flyers, and later took action on the truth-in-leasing issue (see January 3, 1973). On October 7, 1971, however, FAA withdrew a proposed rule that would have placed certain new certification requirements on operators of large aircraft in private carriage. FAA took this action on the ground that the proposal would impose unnecessary administrative burdens on corporate or business aircraft operators, but the agency continued to consider ways to upgrade the safety of large general aviation aircraft. (See October 23, 1972.)
Saturday, March 13, 1971:An FAA rule upgraded airworthiness standards for small airplanes seating 10 or more passengers (excluding crew). The new rule required all such aircraft, regardless of weight, to be certificated in the air transport category. The rule reflected a trend toward increased numbers and types of small aircraft designed with relatively large passenger capacity, and it affected segments of aviation that included the growing air taxi industry. (See September 7, 1964, and December 1, 1978.)
Monday, March 15, 1971:FAA adopted a marking and lighting standard for identifying transmission lines and their support structures that could constitute a potential hazard to air navigation. The standard called for three sequentially flashing white lights of high intensity to be installed on transmission line support structures. Each light would flash 60 times per minute. These lights replaced unlighted spherical markers on transmission lines, which provided little or no help to pilots at night or in bad weather.
Wednesday, March 24, 1971:The Senate in effect terminated the U.S. civil supersonic transport (SST) program when it voted against the appropriation of $289 million to continue SST prototype development. The House of Representatives had voted down the SST appropriation on March 18, 1971. Later, in May 1971, pro-SST forces in the House seeking to revive the program succeeded by a vote of 201-197 in amending a Department of Transportation supplemental appropriations bill to include $85.3 million for SST development; however, the Senate struck out the amendment by a vote of 58-37. (See December 3, 1970, and October 12, 1971.)
Thursday, March 25, 1971:A U.S.-Icelandic agreement provided that the United States would reimburse Iceland for flight inspection of U.S.-owned military air navigation aids within Iceland. The inspections had previously been performed by FAA, which since 1966 had been helping Iceland to establish a flight inspection unit.
Monday, March 29, 1971:The FAA Administrator delegated to the Federal Air Surgeon the authority to grant or deny airman petitions for a medical exemption under a rule effective this date. Previously, the Administrator granted or denied such petitions after receiving the recommendation of an advisory panel of medical specialists. Under the new rule, the services of this panel were no longer required; however, the Federal Air Surgeon consulted with medical specialists where appropriate. Petitions involving a policy determination were referred, with the Federal Air Surgeon’s recommendations, to the Administrator for final action.
Wednesday, March 31, 1971:The first grant under the Airport Planning Grant Program went to the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission for the development of a statewide comprehensive airport system plan. (See May 21, 1970.)
Friday, April 2, 1971:FAA realigned its regional field structure in the contiguous 48 States to conform generally with the President’s plan for a common pattern of Federal regional boundaries and regional headquarters. In March 1969, the President had announced a plan calling for 10 standard Federal regions encompassing all 50 States to facilitate service to the public in matters cutting across departmental or agency lines. Conformance with this plan required FAA to establish four new regions — New England, Great Lakes, Rocky Mountain, and Northwest — and to realign the boundaries of four of its five preexisting regions in the contiguous 48 States. The resulting nine regions in the contiguous states, their regional headquarters, and the states each encompassed, were:
  • New England (Boston): Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont.
  • Eastern (New York City): New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia.
  • Southern (Atlanta): North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
  • Great Lakes (Chicago): Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
  • Central (Kansas City): Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska.
  • Southwest (Fort Worth): Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.
  • Rocky Mountain (Denver): Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.
  • Northwest (Seattle): Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.
  • Western (Los Angeles): California, Arizona, and Nevada.
FAA was authorized certain deviations from the President’s plan: (1) the agency did not establish a region headquartered at Philadelphia, but instead combined the states that the plan allocated to that region with those allocated to New York; (2) FAA’s Alaskan Region was not combined with the region headquartered at Seattle; (3) and Hawaii continued as the main part of FAA’s Pacific Region, headquartered at Los Angeles, rather than becoming part of a region headquartered at San Francisco. Thus, FAA had 11 regions for the 50 States. (See June 12, 1981.) At the same time that FAA’s regional realignment went into force, FAA abolished its area offices in the contiguous 48 States (see November 22, 1968), and the responsibilities of the area managers were transferred to the appropriate regional directors. Area coordinators without line authority were stationed at seven locations formerly having area offices (Albuquerque, Houston, Memphis, Miami, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Washington, DC). In addition, Cleveland and Minneapolis each had a local coordinator with responsibility limited to the city’s metropolitan jurisdiction. These coordinators served as a point of contact for the public on issues involving more than one program area, represented the regional director with the community on non-program matters, and advised and assisted program elements of FAA on activities that crossed program lines. In Alaska, FAA also closed the Fairbanks, Juneau, Nome, and King Salmon Area Offices (see May 22, 1969), and area coordinators assumed services formerly performed by those offices.
Friday, April 2, 1971:The Administrator gave air traffic control facilities increased flexibility in granting pilot routing and altitude requests for all types of aircraft. Conditions permitting, controllers were empowered to: relax the requirements for preferential routings; assign the most economical altitudes; discontinue standard instrument departures; and honor requests for direct radar vectors. These relaxed procedures were made possible by a temporary decline in air traffic during fiscal 1971 (the first such decline since fiscal 1961), which coincided with a general slowdown in the U.S. economy.
Tuesday, April 6, 1971:FAA required pilot familiarization with all available information concerning the runway lengths at airports of intended use, as well as with takeoff and landing distances appropriate to the aircraft being used. This mandatory preflight action replaced various general operating practices.
Monday, April 19, 1971:FAA issued its first type certificate for a West German helicopter, the Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm BO-105A.
Monday, April 19, 1971:The Soviet Union launched Salyut 1, the first of a series of orbiting space stations. Soviet cosmonauts used Soyuz spacecraft to reach these stations for increasingly long missions, including a stay of over 200 days aboard Salyut 7 in 1982. (See May 14, 1973.)
Monday, April 26, 1971:Intercom noted that Ruth M. Dennis would become the first woman to serve as chief of a Flight Service Station when she reported to the San Diego FSS during the week. Dennis had joined the Civil Aeronautics Authority in 1944.
Thursday, April 29, 1971:FAA established four transcontinental high-altitude area navigation routes between New York City and Los Angeles and Oakland, CA. (See October 1, 1969, and March 6, 1972.)
Thursday, April 29, 1971:FAA established a V/STOL (vertical/short takeoff and landing) Special Projects Office under the Associate Administrator for Engineering and Development to stimulate and encourage the private development of economically viable V/STOL systems and provide a focal point for all of FAA’s V/STOL development activities. The new office would formulate and maintain a comprehensive agency V/STOL development plan. (See September 23, 1968, September 17, 1971, and July 26, 1972.)
Monday, May 3, 1971:FAA’s Management Training School at Cameron College, Lawton, OK, admitted its first class. The school’s establishment had been recommended by the Corson Committee (see January 29, 1970). FAA required all supervisors and middle managers to attend an appropriate three-week course, and refresher courses were offered. Some 50,000 FAA personnel attended the school before it closed on July 3, 1987. (See July 1, 1972 and March 14, 1986.)
Friday, May 14, 1971:In United States v. Lopez, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York declared FAA’s antihijacking profile system constitutional (see July 17, 1970). The court found that the system had provided the “reasonable suspicion” required to justify a personal search. On another key point, that of the characteristics contained in the profile for identifying potential hijackers, the Court said that careful adherence to the absolute objectivity and neutrality of the system as designed would avoid discrimination on the basis of religion, origin, race, or political views. The case arose when two men preparing to board a New York-San Juan flight were arrested and charged with concealing a packet of narcotics. Charges against one of the men were dropped. The other man — the defendant in this case — was acquitted on a motion to suppress the evidence, which the court found had been gathered outside the government’s system to deter and apprehend hijackers.
Sunday, May 16, 1971:Gene D. Sims became the first woman to serve as chief of an FAA airport traffic control tower, taking over supervision of the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Airport tower upon its commissioning. Sims, who had joined FAA in 1956, had served as a crew chief at the Akron-Canton (Ohio) Airport tower since 1962.
Friday, May 21, 1971:FAA established the Office of General Aviation, at the same time abolishing the Office of General Aviation Affairs, which formed the nucleus of the new office. (See August 31, 1962 and September 10, 1978.)
Friday, June 4, 1971:FAA issued the first supplemental type certificate approving installation of a nitrogen fuel-tank inerting system in a civil aircraft to protect against accidental ignition of fuel vapors. The agency installed the inerting system, developed under an FAA contract by Parker Hannifin Corporation, in a DC-9 aircraft. The type certificate applied to this specific aircraft only.
Tuesday, June 8, 1971:FAA established a Behavioral Sciences Division in the Office of Aviation Medicine. The new division, to which the agency transferred the functions of the Psychology Staff and the Psychiatric Assistant, provided advice on psychiatric and psychological matters in support of employee and occupational health programs, the air traffic control specialist health program, manpower management programs, and FAA’s effort to combat aircraft piracy and sabotage, including the selection and training of air marshals.
Tuesday, June 8, 1971:FAA established the quality assurance systems analysis review (QASAR) program to improve surveillance activities of the quality control systems used by aviation-product manufacturers and their parts suppliers. This program provided for a systems analysis evaluation of the aeronautical manufacturer’s total organization through in-depth and independent evaluations of the manufacturer conducted by the Flight Standards Service’s QASAR teams, and continuing evaluations by Engineering and Manufacturing District Offices as part of their day-to-day certificate management responsibilities. On October 15, 1971, FAA established an Aeronautical Quality Assurance Field Office in the regions to carry out the responsibilities of the QASAR program as well as the functional responsibilities of the Systemsworthiness Analysis Program. (See June 1966.)
Saturday, June 12, 1971:The first passenger death in a domestic hijacking incident occurred on a TWA aircraft bound from Albuquerque to New York. The hijacker had forced his way aboard the Boeing 727 aircraft during a scheduled stop at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, seized a stewardess, and demanded to be flown to Vietnam. The passenger was killed attempting to aid the stewardess. When the medium-range aircraft landed at New York’s Kennedy International Airport for substitution of a long-range aircraft, the hijacker was wounded and arrested. (See March 17, 1970.)
Tuesday, June 15, 1971:FAA moved its Southeast Asian International Field Office (IFO) from Manila, Republic of the Philippines, to Agana, Territory of Guam. (The Manila office was officially closed June 30, 1971.) This IFO provided aviation services to Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Vietnam, Thailand, Nauru, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and Guam.
Friday, June 18, 1971:FAA announced a joint program with the military services designed to minimize the number of military aircraft flying under visual flight rules (VFR). The purpose of the program was to enhance the efficiency of the common civil-military airspace system and reduce the midair-collision hazard by bringing military flights under the direct control of FAA’s air traffic control facilities. To the maximum extent practicable, military flights in fixed-wing aircraft would be conducted in accordance under instrument flight rules (IFR). The danger of mixing of high-speed IFR and VFR traffic had been tragically illustrated by a midair collision on June 6, 1971, near Duarte, CA, of a DC-9 airliner and a U.S. Marine Corps F-4B. All 49 occupants of the DC-9 and one of the two occupants of the F-4B were killed. The airliner was under IFR control; the military plane was flying VFR.
Thursday, July 1, 1971:The production model of the Cessna Citation first flew. In February 1972, FAA type-certificated this 8-seat, pressurized, executive turbofan aircraft.
Thursday, July 1, 1971:FAA’s first modular airport traffic control tower went into operation, at the Owensboro-Davies County (KY) Airport. The prefabricated tower, designed primarily for low traffic activity airports, was erected at the airport in a matter of weeks. The tower was equipped with solid state communications equipment.
Thursday, July 8, 1971:FAA put into operation a jet-propelled boat to conduct search and rescue operations in the event of a crash landing in the Potomac River near Washington National Airport. The 22-foot watercraft could accommodate all occupants of the largest airliner serving the airport.
Tuesday, July 27, 1971:FAA put into operation two mobile lounges that could be raised and lowered to accommodate varying aircraft floor heights at Dulles International Airport. The new lounges, which carried up to 150 passengers were designed to mate with the Boeing 747, Lockheed L-1011, and McDonnell Douglas DC-10, and other commercial aircraft. The older model mobile lounges had been fitted with a portable stairway to bridge the space between the lounge ramp and the newer and higher aircraft; however, this attachment did not protect passengers from adverse weather. (See April 2, 1959.)
Thursday, July 1, 1971:The Departments of Defense and Transportation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration issued a national plan for developing a microwave landing system (MLS) for civil-military common use. The plan, designed to meet all civil and military needs for instrument landing systems at domestic and foreign airports during this century, outlined two complementary development efforts: an industry program to produce prototype equipment at the earliest possible date; and a series of government programs concerned with such issues as validation, the investigation of subsystem concepts and techniques, and the application of MLS to civil-military aircraft operations. MLS was intended to replace the instrument landing system (ILS), a unidirectional system employing VHF and UHF radio frequencies. The ILS, which had remained essentially unchanged since its introduction in the 1940s, suffered from limitations that included dependence on a fairly smooth airport surface to transmit an acceptable signal. Consequently, the system could not be installed in some areas without expensive reconfiguring of the terrain. The construction of a new hangar or even the accumulation of snow could adversely affect the system. MLS would provide precision, high-integrity guidance that would be relatively insensitive to the effects of terrain, structures, other aircraft, and weather. It could operate at airports where the conventional ILS could not operate because of terrain irregularities. Moreover, the new system would make more flight paths available because it would employ a wide-angle scanning beam, as opposed to the unidirectional beam of the old system. On July 26, 1972, the responsibility for developing the new system was entrusted to a newly formed Microwave Landing System Branch within FAA’s Systems Research and Development Service. (See June 19, 1970, and January 27, 1972.)
Wednesday, August 4, 1971:Recognizing that noise was a major source of environmental pollution, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued guidelines for housing construction near high-noise areas, including airports. HUD hoped to discourage the construction of new dwelling units on sites that had, or were projected to have, an unacceptable noise exposure by withholding financial assistance for their development. For existing buildings located in a noisy environment, the Department encouraged sound-proofing, provided a structure’s life was not substantially increased.
Tuesday, August 10, 1971:FAA abolished the Bureau of National Capital Airports as a bureau, renamed it National Capital Airports, and attached it to the Airports Service, which assumed responsibility for operating Washington National and Dulles International Airports. (See December 5, 1966 and June 11, 1974.)
Wednesday, August 11, 1971:FAA expanded requirements for an anticollision system of flashing aviation-red or aviation-white lights for night operations. The agency mandated that the system be installed on all powered U.S. civil aircraft with a standard airworthiness certificate by August 12, 1972. (Aircraft with experimental, restricted, or provisional type certificates were exempted.) Previously, FAA had required the anticollision light system only on large aircraft and on certain small aircraft as specified in their airworthiness certificates. The agency required this system in addition to the position-light system carried by all aircraft on their tails and wingtips.
Monday, August 30, 1971:Effective this date, FAA required the fastening of safety belts by each occupant on U.S.-registered civil aircraft during takeoff and landing. The rule excepted occupants of airships and also children under two years if held by an adult. Previously, the only passengers that FAA had required to fasten their belts during takeoff and landing were those transported by scheduled air carriers and commercial operators of large aircraft. The new rule required the pilot in command to ensure that all persons aboard had been notified to fasten their safety belts prior to takeoff or landing.
Saturday, September 4, 1971:An Alaska Airlines 727 struck a mountain slope while attempting a nonprecision instrument landing approach to Juneau airport, killing all 111 persons aboard. The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause to be a display of misleading navigational information concerning the flight’s progress along the localizer course, which resulted in premature descent.
Tuesday, September 14, 1971:FAA signed an agreement with NASA for joint participation in flight simulation research and development projects. Under the agreement, FAA provided technical personnel to coordinate the agency’s R & D projects with NASA officials at the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffet Field, CA. Included among the research projects were aircraft handling qualities and the development of certification criteria for new aircraft, such as short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft.
Tuesday, September 14, 1971:FAA transferred the air marking and skyway programs to the Office of General Aviation from the Facility Installation Service.
Wednesday, September 15, 1971:The Department of Transportation issued an in-depth study of general aviation safety, excluding “for hire” operations. The study was conducted by members of the staff of the Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Safety and Consumer Affairs, FAA officials, and general aviation consultants. Areas of concern identified were: inadequate pilot and flight instructor certification requirements; the lack of periodic pilot proficiency checks; the inability of flight service stations to meet the flight operation requirements of the general aviation community, especially its need for accurate and current weather data; and the lack of standard traffic patterns for uncontrolled airports. The study’s recommendations included: conducting a biennial proficiency flight review of every pilot by a certificated flight instructor; placing increased emphasis on the general aviation accident prevention program; increasing the skill, knowledge, and experience requirements of flight instructors; implementing flight service station modernization and reconfiguration; improving the reporting of weather information to the general aviation pilot; strengthening general aviation’s position in FAA’s headquarters; publishing the Federal Aviation Regulations in separate parts, rather than the 11-volume format used at the time; and adopting the standard traffic-pattern rule at all uncontrolled airports.
Thursday, September 16, 1971:The National Transportation Safety Board ruled that pilots who had suffered a stroke could not be automatically denied a first-class medical certificate. The Board stated that each pilot’s case must be treated separately rather than on the basis of general stroke statistics and predictions. The ruling reversed FAA’s denial of a first-class medical certificate to a pilot who had suffered a “pure motor stroke” in 1964. The Board noted that the pilot had met the pertinent rules and standards since the stroke, and hence his general medical condition allowed him to safely exercise the privileges of the certificate.
Friday, September 17, 1971:The first grant related to vertical/short takeoff and landing facilities under the airport planning grant program went to the New Jersey Department of Transportation to study the development of a special facility to accommodate V/STOL aircraft. (See April 29 and October 17, 1971.)
Thursday, September 23, 1971:The United States and 29 other nations signed the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation (known as the Sabotage or Montreal Convention) at a conference held under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (see September 11, 1970). This agreement was directed against offenders who commit acts of violence against persons aboard civil aircraft in flight, or who destroy or endanger such aircraft through means that include sabotage, interference with air navigation facilities, and communication of false information It placed an obligation on contracting states to extradite such offenders or submit their cases to prosecutorial authorities. The convention would go into force 30 days following deposit of instruments of ratification by 10 of the original signatory states. The U.S. deposited its instruments of ratification on November 1, 1972, and the treaty went into force on January 26, 1973.
Friday, October 1, 1971:FAA established the Airway Facilities Service, combining the Systems Maintenance and Facility Installation Services. This action brought the Washington headquarters in line with the regional organization. (See May 16, 1962 and January 19, 1970.)
Monday, October 4, 1971:FAA commissioned the first operational Automated Radar Terminal System (ARTS) III, at Chicago’s terminal radar control facility at O’Hare International Airport. The basic ARTS III, when added to existing airport surveillance radars, permitted the display of such flight information as aircraft identity and altitude directly on the radarscopes for aircraft equipped with transponders. (See February 13, 1973.)
Tuesday, October 12, 1971:FAA abolished the Office of Supersonic Transport Development and established the Supersonic Transport Office under the Associate Administrator for Engineering and Development to continue SST engineering and research activities. The agency also established a SST Contracts Branch in the Logistics Service to perform the contracting and procurement functions for the negotiation, administration, and termination of SST contracts. (See March 24, 1971.)
Thursday, October 14, 1971:FAA completed lowering the base of area positive control from 24,000 to 18,000 feet over the entire contiguous 48 States with the lowering of the base over the southeastern United States. The base had previously been lowered over the northeastern and north central United States on November 9, 1967; the northwestern and northern tier states on May 27, 1971; the west central states on July 22, 1971; and the central and southwestern states on August 19, 1971. The action meant that all aircraft flying between 18,000 and 60,000 feet over the contiguous United States would receive separation services under direct FAA air traffic control. The agency had considered the measure for a number of years, since the increasing closure speeds of aircraft reduced the time available for pilots operating under Visual Flight Rules to detect potential collisions and take evasive action. (See November 9, 1967.)
Sunday, October 17, 1971:Opening of the first officially designated STOLport solely for short takeoff and landing aircraft took place at Disney World, near Orlando, FL. (The term “STOLport” had previously been applied to that portion of an airport reserved for STOL aircraft, and not to the entire facility.) The facility was the first such site in a projected intrastate STOL transportation system. (See August 5, 1968, and July 26, 1972.)
Thursday, November 18, 1971:Public Law 92-159 prohibited airborne hunting of birds, fish, and other animals. The act prescribed criminal penalties for shooting, attempted shooting, or harassing of wildlife from an aircraft.
Tuesday, November 23, 1971:A Federal arbitrator approved a two-man cockpit crew for Aloha’s 737 flights, basing his decision on the low-density, fair-weather conditions under which Aloha operated. On May 8, 1973, however, a federal arbitrator’s ruling in another dispute approved a three-man crew for the 737 flights of Wien Air Alaska. (See July 21, 1969 and November 18-27, 1974.)
Wednesday, November 24, 1971:The first in a series of hijackings involving extortion occurred when a passenger on a flight from Portland to Seattle successfully demanded $200,000 and four parachutes, then parachuted from the rear stairway of the Boeing 727. The hijacker — who used the name Dan Cooper, but became known as D.B. Cooper in the press — was never found. (In February 1980, however, tattered bills from his loot were discovered along the Columbia River in Washington.) Another incident involving a demand for ransom and parachutes occurred on December 24, 1971, and 17 more extortion attempts on U.S. air carriers were made during the next 6 months. (See March 7-9, 1972.)
Saturday, November 27, 1971: An amendment to the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970 (see May 21, 1970), Congress specified that:
  • No trust fund money could be appropriated to carry out any program or activity under the Federal Aviation Act other than “acquiring, establishing, and improving air navigation facilities. . .”
  • Any excess of trust fund receipts over airport-airway capital investments could be applied toward the cost of administering the airport and airway development programs.
  • Funds equal to the minimum amounts authorized for each fiscal year for airport and airway development must remain available in the trust fund until appropriated for airport-airway development.
Congress passed this amendment when the Nixon administration submitted a budget request for fiscal year 1972 that proposed to obligate less than the minimum annual levels specified in the Airport-Airway Act for airport-airway capital investments. The Department of Transportation, in a move dictated by the newly formed Office of Management and Budget, proposed to use the difference between the revenues generated by user charges and the amounts requested for airport-airway development to help meet the operational needs of air navigation and air traffic control. This proposed use of the trust fund for noncapital expenditures was substantial. For example, the submission proposed to pay the salaries of all but 6,253 of FAA’s 54,550 employees with trust fund money generated by user taxes. Such use of trust fund money would have been in line with Congress’s intent only if the administration had requested funds for airport and airways development at the minimum levels authorized by the act. The administration’s requesting less than the minimum was seen by Congress as an attempt to raid the trust fund for operational expenses. In addition, the amendment extended the deadline for submission to Congress of the report of the Aviation Advisory Commission for one year (see January 3, 1973), and also extended the deadline for certificating airports serving air carriers for one year (to May 21, 1973: see that date). (See June 18, 1973.)
Thursday, December 2, 1971:FAA established a program to expedite departures of general aviation aircraft at certain airports when local weather conditions precluded VFR operations. Known as “card-a-clearance,” this program used preprinted cards containing three standard departure clearances. By referring to these cards, pilots avoided long and repetitious clearances on congested frequencies and also reduced the possibility of misunderstanding of air traffic control instructions. The program was of special value at airports with a heavy volume of general aviation traffic and recurrent smog or fog problems. Prior to implementation of this program, FAA conducted a successful year-long test of the procedures at three general aviation airports in the Los Angeles Basin.
Friday, December 31, 1971:FAA terminated its four-year-old policy of granting immunity from enforcement action to airmen reporting near midair collisions. FAA had adopted this policy on January 1, 1968, to encourage full reporting of near midair collisions, and thus gather adequate data for developing midair collision prevention programs. In 1969, FAA published a midair collision report based on data collected during 1968; data collected in subsequent years substantiated the findings of the 1969 report. FAA saw no need, therefore, to continue its immunity policy. (See July 15, 1969, and April 8, 1975.)
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.