FAA History: 1972

Monday, January 3, 1972:Under a policy change effective this date, certain privately owned public-use airports became eligible for FAA facilities such as control towers, airport surveillance radars, terminal navigation aids, instrument landing systems, visual approach aids, and related equipment and services. Previously, only publicly owned airports were eligible for this assistance. The agency described the new policy as a response to a shortage of facilities serving the growing civil air fleet and to mounting opposition to development of new airports.
Wednesday, January 5, 1972:Betty C. Dillon, a career civil servant, became the first woman to be sworn in as Minister of the U.S. Government to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Friday, January 21, 1972:FAA commissioned the first operational Category IIIa instrument landing system at Dulles International Airport. The system, a British-made STAN 37/38, allowed qualified crews flying properly equipped aircraft to land with a runway visibility range (horizontal visibility) of 700 feet and a decision height (vertical visibility) of zero. Previously, the lowest landing minimums had been a 100-foot decision height and a 1,200-foot RVR, the Category II criteria (see November 3, 1967). FAA outlined criteria that had to be met before Category IIIa minimums could be approved–airport and ground facilities, airborne systems, pilot training and proficiency requirement, operations procedures, and maintenance standards–in an advisory circular published on December 14, 1971. (The Lockheed L-1011 became the first newly certificated aircraft to be equipped with flight guidance equipment that met the Category IIIa criteria.) (See September 1972.)
Wednesday, January 26, 1972:FAA began a series of briefings for manufacturers as part of a new program to promote the export of U.S. aeronautical goods and services. The action was a response to requests by aeronautical manufacturers for the government to develop mechanisms to help them deal with stiffening foreign competition in world markets. The program involved: providing information on export opportunities through reports on the implementation of regional air navigation plans of the International Civil Aviation Organization; and formulating plans for eventual revision of bilateral airworthiness agreements as a way of facilitating U.S. exports and promoting worldwide commonality in airworthiness standards. (See Calendar year 1974.)
Thursday, January 27, 1972:The Secretary of Transportation signed an agreement transferring certain emergency preparedness functions from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to FAA. The agreement applied to the air transportation activities and services provided by U.S. scheduled and supplemental air carriers operating under the economic regulatory authority of CAB and assigned to the War Air Service Program. It excluded air carrier services provided to the Department of Defense under the Civil Reserve Air Fleet Program. Under the agreement, FAA had responsibility for: assessing enemy-inflicted damage relating to air carriers; assisting air carriers in submitting claims for and restoring materials and services needed to resume air service deemed essential by CAB.
Thursday, January 27, 1972:Secretary of Transportation John Volpe announced that FAA had awarded contracts to six companies for the initial phase of a planned five-year development program for a microwave landing system (MLS) for use by civil and military aircraft. (See July 1971 and March 14, 1973.)
Saturday, January 1, 1972:FAA announced the Executive Development Program to identify and develop individuals in supervisory and managerial positions (GS-14 and -15) who had potential for occupying the agency’s executive positions. On September 17, an initial group of eight candidates began their training.
Wednesday, February 2, 1972:FAA published a rule requiring scheduled air carriers and certain commercial operators of large aircraft to implement a passenger and baggage screening system acceptable to the Administrator before February 6, 1972 (see July 17, 1970, and March 7-9, 1972). The agency stated its opinion that the “simple and inexpensive” system used by some carriers would have prevented the majority of recent hijackings if used to the fullest extent possible (see January 1969).
On the same day, at FAA request, the Federal Communications Commission issued a notice which informed broadcasters and FCC licensees that the Communications Act of 1934 prohibited unauthorized broadcast of FAA air-to-ground communications. This action followed instances in which FAA’s communications were monitored and rebroadcast, seriously hampering FAA’s efforts to control aerial piracy.
Monday, February 7, 1972:FAA announced that air traffic controllers fired for their activist roles in the 1970 strike could apply for re-employment. Of the 52 controllers dismissed, 46 applied and were rehired. (See January 29, 1971, and October 20, 1972.)
Thursday, February 10, 1972:FAA consolidated the National Airspace System Program Office (NASPO) with the Systems Research and Development Service. On July 26 FAA abolished NASPO, established in 1966 (see April 25, 1966). As the installation of NAS En Route Stage A at FAA’s ARTCCs was proceeding satisfactorily, there was no further need for a separate office to manage this program. Also, effective July 26, FAA transferred NASPO’s facilities systems and ARTCC building program functions to the Airway Facilities Service.
Tuesday, February 29, 1972:Following a nationwide election, the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists (NAATS) received Department of Labor certification as the national exclusive representative for all Flight Service Station specialists, some 3,000 employees. On June 1, 1972, FAA and NAATS concluded an agencywide collective bargaining agreement, the first such contract between FAA and a national labor organization and the first in a series of FAA/NAATS contracts.
Monday, March 6, 1972:FAA announced the establishment of an FAA-Industry Area Navigation Task Force to advise and assist the agency in the further application of its area navigation system. The action followed a January 24-25, FAA-sponsored international symposium on area navigation that pointed up a need to review FAA’s program. In subsequent months the task force conducted in-depth studies and tests to assess the system’s value and to determine how area navigation could most effectively be implemented. The test results generally confirmed the advantages previously supposed (see October 1, 1969) — that area navigation provided cost benefits by allowing an aircraft en route to stay higher longer and thus conserve fuel, and to arrive at the descent point at precisely the correct time for a letdown without delays. In addition, by extensively analyzing terminal area operations, the tests confirmed that area navigation equipment could be used to move traffic at the same level of efficiency as radar vectors while reducing controller workload by restoring greater responsibility to the cockpit. By the end of fiscal 1973, a nationwide system of high-altitude area navigation routes had been established consisting of approximately 156 route segments.
March 7-9, 1972:Sabotage incidents prompted new security measures. On March 7, a bomb planted as part of an extortion plot against Trans World Airlines was discovered and defused aboard an airliner at New York’s Kennedy Airport. On March 9, another bomb damaged a TWA airliner parked at Las Vegas, and a third was found aboard a United Air Lines jet at Seattle. That same day, President Nixon ordered into immediate effect an FAA rule published on March 7 that had required scheduled air carriers and certain commercial operators of large aircraft to submit written security programs no later than June 5, 1972. The President’s directive required the airlines to implement their programs immediately, and to submit them for formal approval by May 8. The programs were to prevent or deter unauthorized persons, baggage, or cargo from entering the carrier’s aircraft, and were to include the procedures the carrier intended to use in the mandatory passenger screening system (see February 2, 1972). The rule also specified certain procedures to be followed in the event of a bomb or air piracy threat.
On March 9, the President also ordered that new security rules for airport operators be expedited. On March 18, 1972, FAA published a rule applicable to operators of airports regularly served by air carriers using large aircraft. Such operators were required to take prescribed actions to prevent or deter unauthorized access to designated air operations areas, and to submit written security programs for FAA approval by June 16, 1972. (See January 3, 1989.)
On March 15, a cabinet-level task force formed by President Nixon and chaired by Transportation Secretary Volpe approved the following steps:
  • Increased personnel for FAA’s Security Task Force.
  • Deployment of sky marshals from airborne duty to posts at major airports.
  • Increased research and development funding for weapons and explosives detection systems.
  • Use of trained dogs for detection of explosives at major airports and the training of additional dogs.
  • Expedited prosecution of extortion and hijacking suspects.
(See December 5, 1972.)
Friday, April 7, 1972:The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority Board gave final approval to a plan for elevated tracks and a station on the rapid rail transit line to run through Washington National Airport. FAA had preferred an underground station feeding directly into the airport’s terminal, arguing that such an arrangement would be more convenient, aesthetically preferable, and would allow greater flexibility in future development. The Board countered that an underground station would cost $30 million more than the elevated route and would prevent completion of the system in time for the 1976 Bicentennial celebration.
Because work could not begin without right-of-way permission from FAA, which operated the airport, the dispute threatened a costly delay in Metro’s construction. The White House broke the impasse by approving the elevated plan, basing its decision on a recommendation by the Office of Management and Budget that emphasized budgetary considerations. The first stage of Washington’s rapid rail system opened to the public on July 1, 1976, but the airport station did not open until after the close of the Bicentennial year.
Tuesday, April 11, 1972:FAA established the General Aviation Accident Prevention Industry Advisory Committee, implementing a recommendation of a 1971 DOT report on general aviation safety (see September 15, 1971) and providing an advisory body for FAA’s General Aviation Accident Prevention Program (see November 30, 1970). The 16-member FAA-Industry panel was slated to function for two years, but was renewed for another term and was not officially terminated until August 30, 1976.
Monday, April 17, 1972:FAA placed the Office of International Aviation Affairs under the direction of the Associate Administrator for Plans, a change made to reduce the number of people reporting directly to the Administrator. In July 1973, however, FAA placed the office under an assistant administrator reporting directly to the Administrator, thus restoring the previous arrangement.
Monday, May 1, 1972:New crashworthiness and passenger evacuation standards for transport category aircraft became effective this date. The action upgraded requirements in areas that included: seats, berths, safety belts, and harnesses; stowage compartments; items in the passenger or crew compartments that might cause injury in turbulence or interfere with evacuation; cabin interior fire protection; emergency evacuation procedures; emergency exits (their arrangement, marking, lighting, and access); emergency lighting; briefing passengers before takeoff; and structural design to minimize fire hazard due to fuel spillage in the event of partial or complete failure of the landing gear. (See September 20, 1967, and June 26, 1978.)
Tuesday, May 16, 1972:President Nixon signed into law the Air Traffic Controllers Career Program Act (Public Law 92-297). The act, an outgrowth of a Corson Committee recommendation (see January 29, 1970), authorized controllers to retire after 25 years of active duty, or at age 50 if they had 20 years of active service. The new law also established a mandatory age for retirement at 56, with exemptions at the discretion of the Secretary of Transportation up to age 61. (Normal voluntary retirement for Federal employees came at age 55 after 30 years service, or at age 60 after 20 years; mandatory retirement came at age 70.) The act also provided for a “second career program” of up to two years of training at government expense for controllers who had to leave traffic control work because of medical or proficiency disqualification. The act became effective on August 14 and was implemented by FAA on September 8.
Saturday, May 27, 1972:Transpo 72, a mammoth display of modern transportation technology, with more than 400 exhibits and demonstrations spread many acres, opened at Dulles International Airport. The Department of Transportation staged the public exposition to provide a marketing showcase for advanced transportation systems, equipment, and concepts, and to increase public awareness of the importance of the transportation industry. The show remained open until June 4.
Thursday, June 15, 1972:Effective this date, FAA lowered the numbers of flight attendants required on airliners with certain seating capacities. One flight attendant was now required for planes with 10-50 passenger seats, while on larger aircraft the ratio would be one attendant for every 50 passenger seats or additional fraction of 50 seats. The previous rule had established a standard that began with one attendant for planes with 10-44 passenger seats (see June 7, 1965). FAA stated that the change was made possible by upgraded safety requirements for transport category aircraft adopted in recent years (see May 1, 1972).
Monday, June 19, 1972:A 24-hour worldwide stoppage of airline traffic declared by the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations took place. This action, intended to dramatize the need for sterner measures against hijackers, brought to a standstill domestic and international airline operations in more than 30 countries. The strike officially began at 2:00 a.m. (EST) and was supported by more than 40 of the Federation’s 64 units in 62 countries; in the United States, however, following a Federal restraining order on June 18, only 10 percent of the Air Line Pilots Association’s members joined in the job action. In addition, pilots in Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and most Arab and Communist countries refused to participate in the protest.
Saturday, June 24, 1972:Responsibility for the civil administration of Wake Island was transferred from FAA to the Air Force (see September 4, 1962). This action followed a review of FAA’s role on this island, once an important fueling stop for civil and military aircraft crossing the Pacific. With the advent of long-range jet aircraft, civil use of the island’s facilities decreased and the Air Force became the principal user. In addition to its civil administration responsibilities on Wake, FAA had maintained the airport, airport traffic control tower, the international flight service station, and various air navigational aids. (After the transfer FAA continued to maintain the air navigation facilities on Wake and provide air traffic control services, until June 30, 1973.)
Thursday, June 1, 1972:Hurricane Agnes caused river flooding and massive property damage in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York. FAAers throughout the country contributed to a fund to assist their colleagues affected by the storm, and air traffic controllers and other personnel organized an air lift to provide supplies. The Civil Air Patrol, airlines, and the military contributed to the air lift, which expanded from a mission to assist FAA people to include help for thousands of others in the flooded areas.
Saturday, July 1, 1972:FAA transferred responsibility for its Management Training School from the Office of Training to the Aeronautical Center. (See May 3, 1971.)
Saturday, July 1, 1972:New Federal Aviation Regulations (Part 152) prescribing policies and procedures for administering FAA’s Airport Development Aid Program (ADAP) and Planning Grant Program (PGP) went into effect. The new rule included provisions concerning the economic, social, and environmental effects of airport expansion or site selection, as required by the legislation that had established the two programs (see May 21, 1970). FAA required coordination with state, local, and regional agencies on proposed airport construction projects, as well as public hearings on each project.
Thursday, July 20, 1972:FAA redesignated the Pacific Region the Pacific-Asia Region. At the same time, the agency transferred the responsibility for the geographic area of the People’s Republic of China to this region from the Europe, Africa, and Middle East Region. (See April 2, 1971.)
Wednesday, July 26, 1972:FAA retitled the V/STOL (vertical/short takeoff and landing) Special Projects Office the Quiet Short-Haul Air Transportation System Office. The new title better described the broadened functions of the office, which was charged with fostering a short-haul air transportation system acceptable to the public. (See April 29, 1971, and June 11, 1974.)
Tuesday, August 1, 1972:FAA implemented a new standard “Get-‘Em-High Earlier” departure procedure to reduce jet aircraft noise over airport communities nationwide. The new departure procedure, developed jointly with the Air Transport Association, was to be used by 23 U.S. airlines while operating out of most of the nation’s air carrier airports. The pilots would climb at full power to 1,500 feet, instead of 1,000 feet under the old system. Noise relief due to the higher alititude would be most noticeable from three to six miles from lift-off. The new “Get-‘Em-High” procedure supplemented the existing “Keep-‘Em-High” program. (See February 4, 1971, December 23, 1976, and January 19, 1979.)
Tuesday, August 1, 1972:FAA inaugurated the En Route Weather Advisory Service (EWAS) program at four Flight Service Stations: Seattle, Portland, Oakland, and Los Angeles. This service, designed to reduce weather-related general aviation aircraft accidents, provided en route pilots with currrent weather information along their intended route. Flight Service Station specialists trained in the collection and dissemination of aviation weather data manned the EWAS units. Each unit, in addition to obtaining weather information through normal teletype and facsimile channels, was linked by direct telephone line with the nearest National Weather Service forecast office. FAA completed the program in the summer of 1978, under the name En Route Flight Advisory Service (EFAS), when it commissioned the service at the last of 44 designated Flight Service Stations.
Tuesday, August 1, 1972:Northeast Airlines merged into Delta Air Lines. Northeast began as Boston-Maine Airways, which started operations on August 1, 1931, suspended flights in 1932, and resumed on August 11, 1933. The airline had adopted the name Northeast on November 19, 1940.
Monday, August 21, 1972:FAA placed its Office of Appraisal under the executive direction of the Associate Administrator for Administration. Previously, this office reported directly to the Administrator. The Administrator had announced on June 16 his intention to make this organizational change as part of a continuing effort to reduce the number of offices reporting directly to him. (See April 17, 1972, and June 11, 1974.)
Friday, September 15, 1972:A 17-nation anti-hijacking conference sponsored by the Legal Subcommittee of the International Civil Aviation Organization was concluded. The conference, convened in response to the persisting high incidence of aircraft hijackings during 1972, had attempted to draw up a treaty imposing economic sanctions against those nations that provided havens to aircraft hijackers and saboteurs. The failure to agree on a draft resolution cosponsored by the U.S. and Canada, however, brought the meeting to an end.
Sunday, September 17, 1972:Effective this date, CAB replaced the 12,500 gross weight limit for air taxi aircraft with a 30-seat, 7,500 payload limit. This change in CAB’s system of economic regulation was intended to help the development of service by those scheduled air taxis now designated commuter airlines (see July 1, 1969). CAB also hoped to encourage the development of a short takeoff and landing (STOL) transportation system in high density areas.
Friday, September 1, 1972:Trans World Airlines received FAA’s first authorization to operate at Category IIIa weather minimums. Under the new landing minimums, TWA could operate their Lockheed L-1011 aircraft at Dulles International Airport down to a minimum visibility of 1,000 feet runway visual range (RVR), and after gaining operational experience at this altitude, apply for minimums as low as 700 feet RVR. (See January 21, 1972.)
Friday, October 20, 1972:The Federal Labor Relations Council certified PATCO as the sole bargaining unit for air traffic controllers. (See February 7, 1972, and March 17, 1973.)
Monday, October 23, 1972:Effective this date, FAA tightened the safety operating standards for large airplanes, and for turbine-powered airplanes with more than one engine, in private carriage. The new requirements included: survival and radio equipment for extended overwater operations; provisions regarding minimum altitudes; passenger briefings; a fuel reserve of 30 minutes for Visual Flight Rules operations; icing equipment; a flight engineer and a second-in-command pilot on certain airplanes; a flight attendant on an airplane with over 19 passengers on board; and an aircraft inspection program. The new rule was part of a series of actions following an accident on October 2, 1970 (see that date and January 3, 1973.)
Friday, October 27, 1972:Enactment of Public Law 92-574, the Noise Control Act of 1972, defined the respective responsibilities of FAA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the control of aircraft noise. EPA’s role under the act was to recommend noise standards to FAA based on considerations of public health and welfare. FAA, in turn, considered the recommendations, and determined whether the standards proposed by EPA were consistent with safety, economically reasonable, and technologically practicable, and subsequently take appropriate action to implement and enforce them. (See July 21, 1968.)
Sunday, October 29, 1972:Four fugitives killed a ticket agent and hijacked an Eastern Air Lines Boeing 727 at Houston, TX, and forced it to fly to Cuba. This was followed by an even more sensational incident on November 10-12 when three wanted criminals hijacked a Southern Airways DC-9 at Birmingham, Ala. During the following 29 hours, they flew to: Jackson, MS; Cleveland, Ohio; Toronto, Ontario; Lexington, KY; Chattanooga, TN; Havana, Cuba; Key West, FL; and Orlando, FL In a desperate attempt to keep the DC-9 on the ground at Orlando, FBI agents shot out its tires. The hijackers responded by seriously wounding the copilot and ordering a takeoff. The pilot succeeded in clearing the runway and making a second and final landing in Havana. The four hijackers were initially imprisoned in Cuba, but were released. U.S. officials subsequently arrested all four, the last being sentenced in 1994. This incident contributed directly to issuance of an anti-hijacking rule (see December 5, 1972), and to negotiation of a hijacking agreement between the Nixon Administration and Cuba (see February 15, 1973).
Tuesday, October 31, 1972:FAA and the Office of Minority Business Enterprise signed an agreement to promote greater participation by the minority business community in the operation of concessions at the nation’s public airports. Under the agreement, FAA would require airports receiving Airport Development Aid Program funds to inform OMBE of all pending contracts and potential new contracts and to cooperate with OMBE in affirmative action.
Wednesday, November 22, 1972:President Nixon lifted a 22-year-old restriction on travel of U.S. airliners to the People’s Republic of China as part of a general rapprochement between the two countries. Such flights had been banned since 1950 by an Executive Order issued by President Truman during the Korean War.
Tuesday, December 5, 1972:A landmark FAA antihijacking emergency rule issued this date required U.S. air carriers, beginning on January 5, 1973, to inspect all carry-on baggage for weapons or other dangerous objects and scan each passenger with a metal detector (magnetometer) before boarding or, if a detector was not available, conduct a physical search, or pat down. (See August 5, 1974.) If a passenger refused to consent to a search, he or she would not be permitted to board. The rule further required, beginning on February 5, 1973, that the nation’s 531 air carrier airports have a law enforcement officer in the boarding area during the screening and boarding process. The critical difference between this rule and previous antihijacking measures was the universality of the new regulation. Previously, FAA had required air carriers to conduct a weapons scan of only those passengers who fitted a hijacker profile–about one percent of the 500,000 passengers boarding airliners daily. (See October 29, 1972.)
Sunday, December 17, 1972:FAA Administrator John H. Shaffer received the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, presented by the National Aeronautic Association for outstanding contributions to aviation. Shaffer was the first FAA chief to win the prestigious award while holding office.
Monday, December 18, 1972:FAA commissioned the first of 64 standardized, prefabricated airport towers, ordered in April, at the Chino, CA, airport. FAA planned to complete installation of all 64 towers at low and medium activity airports within 15 months.
Tuesday, December 26, 1972:A National Transportation Safety Board study group investigating the safety of air taxi and commuter aircraft operations released its findings and recommendations to the public. The study group was formed after a series of air taxis accidents in late October 1971 claimed 39 lives. The panel recommended more stringent safety requirements for the industry, including higher qualifications for air taxi and commuter pilots, more thorough training for maintenance personnel, and improved oversight by FAA. (See December 1, 1978.)
Friday, December 29, 1972:An Eastern Air Lines Lockheed L-1011 crashed in the Everglades northwest of Miami, killing 99 of the 176 persons aboard. Two survivors died later as a result of their injuries in this first fatal crash of a wide-body airliner. The National Transportation Safety Board cited the probable cause as the flight crew’s failure to monitor flight instruments. Preoccupied with a malfunction of the landing gear position indicator, they allowed the aircraft to descend unnoticed.
Sunday, December 31, 1972:The crash of a DC-7 on takeoff from San Juan, Puerto Rico, killed baseball star Roberto Clemente and four other persons on a relief mission to Nicaragua. Relatives and representatives of passengers killed sued the Federal government, alleging that FAA employees negligently failed to warn that the aircraft was overweight and lacked proper flight crew. The plaintiffs cited an order by the director of FAA’s southern region concerning inspection of large turbine-powered aircraft. A U.S. district court found the government liable. On December 16, 1977, however, an appeals court reversed the decision, ruling that the regional director’s order did not give rise to legal obligation sufficient to support the plaintiff’s claim. While recognizing FAA’s safety mission, the court ruled that Congress could not have intended to authorize such FAA officials to create a legal duty of care between the Federal government and a particular class of passengers. The Court drew a distinction between an aircraft inspector and an air traffic controller, who “owes a duty to those dependent on the quality of his performance.”
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.