FAA History: 1974

Tuesday, January 1, 1974:The Federal Aviation Administration established the first Group II terminal control area (TCA) at St. Louis. Group II TCAs were designed for locations with a lower level of enplaned passengers and aircraft operations than at Group I sites. On January 13, the agency completed establishment of nine Group I TCAs when the Dallas-Fort Worth TCA became operational. The other Group I TCAs were at Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, and Miami. (See June 4, 1973, August 1, 1975)
Wednesday, January 2, 1974:Public Law 93-239, enacted on this date, extended the deadline for installation of emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) in certain types of aircraft from December 30, 1973, to June 30, 1974. The law also added certain new categories of operation, such as flights incident to design and testing, to the list of exceptions to the ELT requirement. (See December 29, 1970, and March 16, 1978.)
Sunday, January 13, 1974:Scheduled airline service began at the new Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Airport, which had been dedicated on September 22, 1973. Decentralized in design, the $700 million complex was the world’s largest airport. (See September 1965.)
Thursday, January 24, 1974:A U.S. appeals court issued a decision upholding the Age-60 rule (see March 15, 1960). The court held that FAA rules that apply generally, even though they affect individuals, do not require an adjudicatory proceeding before being adopted. The case grew out of a petition filed with FAA on June 5, 1970, by the Air Line Pilots Association. The petition charged that the rule was invalid and requested that it be revoked and that FAA hold “public evidentiary proceedings for the development of a record” that could be used to decide the rule’s legality.
Subsequent years saw further legal challenges to the Age-60 rule, but courts continued to uphold it. On December 19, 1978, for example, a U.S. appeals court affirmed FAA’s decision to deny the petition of an airline pilot for exemption from the rule. The pilot had argued that his physical condition met medical standards, but the court found that FAA’s application of the age-60 criterion was reasonable. (See August 4, 1977.)
Wednesday, January 30, 1974:A Pan American Boeing 707 crashed short of the runway during a rain storm at Pago Pago, American Samoa. The impact force only slightly exceeded that of a normal landing, and only the copilot received traumatic injuries. Yet only 10 of the 101 persons aboard escaped the post-crash fire. Six of these survivors died within nine days. Like two accidents in Chicago in late 1972, the crash helped to renew interest in controlling toxic fumes and other fire hazards. FAA issued four rulemaking proposals on these issues during 1974 and 1975 (see June 26, 1978).
In its initial finding on the probable cause of the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the crew had failed to adequately monitor their instruments during the approach (see April 26, 1974). Following complaints by the Air Line Pilots Association, the Board issued a revised report in 1977. The new report gave somewhat more emphasis to the presence of visual illusion and wind shear.
Tuesday, February 12, 1974:FAA inaugurated a new program aimed at providing a general review of airworthiness regulations every two years to see that such rules were promulgated or amended in a more timely and systematic manner. The process was to be carried out with the full participation of other Federal agencies, the U.S. aviation industry, and foreign governments, which were invited to submit rulemaking proposals. The suggestions were processed and considered at a Biennial Airworthiness Review Conference, held in Washington on December 2-11, 1974. The success of this event lead to the establishment, on February 26, 1975, of a similar program for operational rules, and to a Biennial Operations Review Conference in December 1975.
The two review programs eventually resulted in hundreds of rule changes. It proved impossible to complete the process within a two-year period, however, and a biennial cycle was not established.
Sunday, February 17, 1974:A soldier flew a stolen Army helicopter to the White House, where guards open fire with shotguns. Wounded in the legs, the soldier landed on the lawn and was taken into custody.
Friday, February 22, 1974:At Baltimore-Washington International Airport, a former mental patient killed two persons and seriously wounded another in an attempt to hijack a DC-9 and crash it into the White House. The gunman committed suicide when wounded by a policeman.
Sunday, March 3, 1974:A McDonnell Douglas DC-10 wide-body airliner crashed shortly after takeoff from Paris, France, killing all 346 people on board in the worst air disaster up to that time. The Turkish Airlines jet had reached an altitude of about 12,000 feet when its rear bulk-cargo door opened, producing explosive decompression. The resulting collapse of the floor over the cargo compartment disabled vital flight-control cables.
McDonnell-Douglas had known of difficulties with the latching mechanism of the DC-10 cargo doors, and had introduced modifications. On June 12, 1972, however, an improperly secured cargo door opened on an American Airlines DC-10 flying over Windsor, Ontario. The resulting decompression disrupted some control cables running through the floor beams, but the aircraft landed safely at Detroit. Following this event, McDonnell Douglas issued a series of FAA-approved service bulletins aimed at controlling the problem. On October 25, 1973, the manufacturer issued a final service bulletin that introduced a “closed-loop” system as a definitive solution.
The “closed-loop” modification had not yet been applied to the Turkish DC-10 that crashed near Paris. The French accident report also indicated that the manufacturer had failed to complete one of the earlier improvements contained in a service bulletin issued before it delivered the aircraft in December 1972. The report further concluded that improper in-service modifications and adjustments were among the factors that permitted the ground crew’s defective closing of the door before the ill-fated flight.
Following the Paris crash, FAA issued two airworthiness directives dated March 6 and March 22, 1974. These directives required implementation of the various modifications contained in the manufacturer’s service bulletins, which did not carry the force of law. Shortly thereafter, FAA Administrator Alexander P. Butterfield announced that the agency would henceforth employ airworthiness directives in all situations involving a design change to correct unsafe conditions. (See December 27, 1974.)
On July 7, 1975, FAA issued an airworthiness directive requiring the manufacturers to ensure that the floors of all wide-body jets could withstand the effects of rapid in-flight decompression caused by sudden appearance of an opening of up to 20 square feet in the lower deck cargo compartment. This could be achieved by strengthening the floors and/or installing relief vents between the passenger cabin and aft cargo compartment.
Friday, April 26, 1974:FAA began an in-depth inspection of the worldwide flight operations of Pan American World Airways following the April 22 crash of a Pan Am Boeing 707 into a mountain in Bali, Indonesia. The Bali accident, in which all 107 persons aboard died, followed three other Pan Am 707 crashes: Tahiti, July 23, 1973; Boston, November 3, 1973 (see entry for June 7, 1973); and Pago Pago, January 31, 1974 (see that date).
Thursday, May 9, 1974:FAA signed the Memorandum of Understanding for a joint international program to test, evaluate, and demonstrate the use of aeronautical satellites to provide improved communications and air traffic services over the North Atlantic. The aeronautical satellite program, known as AEROSAT and jointly operated by the 10 countries of the European Space Research Organization (ESRO), Canada, and the United States, was intended to furnish the information upon which to base a follow-on operational system expected to be required in the mid-1980s. On August 2, representatives from Canada and ESRO signed the Memorandum. (See November 12, 1974.)
Wednesday, May 29, 1974:FAA announced a new advisory circular on safety parameters for hang gliding, which included recommendations not to fly: over 500 feet above general terrain; in clouds; in controlled airspace, or within five miles of an uncontrolled airport without proper notification; in restricted or controlled areas without prior permission; over or within 100 feet horizontally of buildings, populated areas, or crowds. Hang gliding, a sport involving unpowered, kite-like craft, had grown rapidly in recent years. In announcing the circular, Administrator Butterfield stated his hope that observance of the guidelines would make it unnecessary to regulate the sport. FAA also advised hang gliding clubs to establish training and safety programs, and urged manufacturers to ensure quality control. (See September 2, 1982.)
Thursday, May 30, 1974:FAA certificated the Airbus A-300, the first of a series of wide-body transport aircraft produced by Airbus Industrie, an international consortium established in December 1970 with French, West German, British, Spanish, Dutch, and Belgian partner companies. The emergence of Airbus Industrie signaled greater competition for U.S. aircraft manufacturers. (See April 6, 1978.)
Tuesday, June 11, 1974:A headquarters reorganization established the positions of: Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, with control of the Flight Standards Service and the Civil Aviation Security Service; Associate Administrator for Airports, with control of the Airports Service and of the new Metropolitan Washington Airport Service, which operated Washington National and Dulles International Airports; and the Associate Administrator for Air Traffic and Airway Facilities, with control of the Air Traffic Service and Airway Facilities Service. The Associate Administrator for Plans was redesignated the Associate Administrator for Policy Development and Review. The post of Associate Administrator for Operations, which had controlled the Flight Standards, Air Traffic, and Airports Services, was abolished. The Office of Appraisal and the Quiet Short-Haul Air Transportation System Office were also eliminated. An Office of Investigations and Security was established under the Associate Administrator for Administration (See August 3, 1970), and the Office of Personnel and Training was created from two formerly separate offices. The reorganization achieved Administrator Butterfield’s aim of placing the flight standards and air traffic functions under separate Associate Administrators, but only partially fulfilled his goal of grouping safety-related functions under the Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety. On June 12, the press reported the retirement of Oscar Bakke, the experienced official designated for the Aviation Safety post, who was disappointed by the scope of the new position.
Saturday, June 15, 1974:FAA launched Operation Ground Assist, a 30-day general aviation safety program, to raise the level of safety consciousness among general aviation pilots and ground personnel with safety responsibilities. The program was designed to help reverse a continued rise in the number of accidents in personal flying. It entailed visits to selected general aviation airports by FAA field personnel, who looked for unsafe practices, made suggestions, and encouraged a candid exchange of ideas between airmen and the aviation agency.
Friday, July 12, 1974:FAA announced a contract with Honeywell for 10 Central Control and Monitoring Systems for use at air route traffic control centers and the Aeronautical Center. The computerized devices were designed to keep watch on electrical, mechanical, and fire alarm systems. They would alert technicians in case of trouble, and also effect savings by reducing or turning off power to certain equipment at off-peak periods. FAA announced a contract for an additional 11 systems on January 30, 1976, and a total of 9 were installed by the end of that year.
Wednesday, July 31, 1974:A Delta Air Lines DC-9 crashed against a sea wall while making an instrument approach to Logan International Airport in Boston, Mass., with the loss of 89 lives. The National Transportation Safety Board attributed the accident to flight crew error. Although the Board also named “nonstandard” air traffic control service as a contributory factor, a U.S. district court cleared FAA of liability.
Monday, August 5, 1974:President Nixon signed the Anti-Hijacking Act of 1974 into law. Under its provisions, the act:
  • authorized the President to suspend air transportation between the United States and nations that aided terrorist groups who used the illegal seizure of aircraft as an instrument of policy.
  • empowered the Secretary of Transportation, with the approval of the Secretary of State, to impose sanctions against the carriers of nations that failed to maintain minimum security standards in the transportation of persons, property, and mail, as required by the Convention on International Civil Aviation.
  • required air carriers to refuse to carry persons unwilling to submit to personal search, and any article that a passenger did not allow to be inspected.
  • required FAA to continue in effect passenger and baggage screening procedures (see December 5, 1972).
  • allowed FAA to use, for as long as needed, Federal personnel, including FAA personnel, to supplement state, local, and private law enforcement officers in airport security programs. (In anticipation of this responsibility, FAA had established a new unit, the Civil Aviation Security Service, out of what had been the anti-hijacking and cargo security section of the Office of Air Transportation Security: see June 11, 1974.)
The passenger screening program and other precautionary measures continued to be effective in combating the hijacking menace. For the second consecutive year (see Calendar year 1973) not one successful hijacking occurred on a scheduled U.S. air carrier aircraft.
Friday, August 9, 1974:Richard M. Nixon resigned the Presidency and was succeeded by Vice President Gerald R. Ford.
Friday, August 9, 1974:James E. Dow became FAA’s Deputy Administrator. The appointment was among the last official acts of President Nixon, who had nominated Dow on July 24.
A native of East Machias, Maine, Dow was a graduate of the University of Maine. He entered the Federal service in 1943 as an air traffic controller in CAA’s Central Region. After several promotions in the field, Dow transferred to CAA’s Washington headquarters in 1956, where he served successively as Assistant Chief of both the Systems Engineering and Systems Management Divisions, Chief of the Plans Division, and Director of the NAS Special Projects Office. Following a year at Princeton University on a fellowship in the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs, he became Director of the Office of Budget in July 1967. In August 1972, Dow became Associate Administrator for Administration. He became Acting Deputy Administrator in July 1973, assuming on a collateral basis the responsibilities of a post that had been vacant since the departure of Kenneth M. Smith on July 15, 1972. (See May 11, 1970, and March 31, 1976).
Wednesday, August 14, 1974:The Operations Committee of the Air Transport Association (ATA) decided that, effective September 1, its member airlines would withdraw from the familiarization flight (SF 160) program under which an air traffic controller could make up to eight free flights per year as a cockpit observer. Members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization reacted by conducting work slowdowns that continued until ATA reversed its decision on October 16. (See May 7, 1975.)
Wednesday, August 21, 1974:FAA announced a rule providing for issuance of “limited” airport operating certificates to airports serving CAB-certificated air carriers conducting only unscheduled operations or operations with small aircraft. FAA allowed airports in this category to operate under previously-issued provisional certificates until December 15. (See May 21, 1973)
Monday, August 26, 1974:Charles A. Lindbergh died in Maui, Hawaii, at the age of 72. (See May 20-21, 1927)
Wednesday, September 4, 1974:The U.S. and Mexico announced an agreement on air traffic services adjacent to their common border. The culmination of over 15 years of negotiation, the pact authorized air traffic facilities in 6 pairs of cities to enter into agreements on coordinating air traffic control.
Thursday, September 5, 1974:FAA shut down the last four-course radio range still in operation, at Northway, Alaska, after more than 40 years of service. The four-course range was the first navigation system that enabled pilots to fly “blind”–that is, fly a direct line between airports when visibility was poor or nonexistent (see June 30, 1928). Beginning in the late forties, FAA replaced the system with the more efficient very-high-frequency omnidirectional range (VOR). The VOR’s higher frequency reduced static and its omnidirectional signal afforded guidance to pilots on any bearing from the transmitter. (See March 17, 1982.) The center antenna of the Northway range, now designated for use with a nondirectional beacon, remained in operation.
Sunday, September 8, 1974:A bomb exploded in the aft cargo compartment of a Trans World Airlines Boeing 707. The flight had originated in Tel Aviv, stopped over at Athens, and was bound for Rome and then New York. The explosion disabled the aircraft’s control system, and the 707 crashed into the Ionian Sea with the loss of all 88 persons aboard. Floating debris and 24 bodies were recovered, but the wreckage was not raised from the sea bottom.
Wednesday, September 11, 1974:An Eastern Air Lines DC-9 crashed 3.3 miles short of a runway at Charlotte, N.C., while approaching through patchy fog. All but 10 of the 82 persons aboard lost their lives. The National Transportation Safety Board attributed the accident to “lack of altitude awareness” due to “poor cockpit discipline.” Eastern Air Lines and 19 insurance companies sued four FAA air traffic controllers for $35 million each in connection with the accident. In December 1979, a jury in Charlotte found in favor of the controllers, who were defended by the Federal government.
Wednesday, September 18, 1974:Transportation Secretary Claude S. Brinegar announced the Ford Administration’s decision not to ask Congress to subsidize the nation’s financially troubled flag carriers, Pan American and Trans World Airlines. Instead, the Administration continued to pursue an “action plan” to assist the two airlines through a variety of means that did not involve subsidy or new legislation. Congress, however, passed the International Air Transportation Fair Competitive Practices Act of 1974. As signed on January 3, 1975, this law included provisions designed to raise overseas mail rates, require Federal agencies to use U.S. flag carriers whenever possible, and control rebates by shippers and ticket agents. The law mandated negotiations aimed at protecting U.S. flag carriers from discriminatory landing fees and airport charges, and directed the Secretary of Transportation to impose retaliatory fees against the airlines of nations that failed to respond. (See February 15, 1980)
Thursday, September 19, 1974:FAA commissioned the first of a new-generation Power Conditioning System for the 20 Air Route Traffic Control Centers in the contiguous U.S. at the Los Angeles ARTCC. The system processed all incoming power, ensuring that it remained at the proper voltage level and frequency. In the event of commercial power failure, it also provided battery power until emergency generators could take over. The system was designed to replace less sophisticated versions in use at some ARTCCs. (See June 27, 1969 and July 13, 1977.)
Tuesday, October 1, 1974:Effective this date, FAA reduced the minimum separation distance for simultaneous Instrument Landing System (ILS) approaches to parallel runways. The change from 5,000 feet to 4,300 feet allowed certain airports to add parallel runways when needed to handle increasing traffic.
Friday, November 1, 1974:Tougher new rules covering the training, testing, and certification of pilots in nearly all categories except airline transport pilot went into effect. For the first time, FAA required a biennial flight review for all pilots not engaged in airline or other commercial operations for which FAA already required periodic flight checks. Other new provisions included:
  • Student pilots were required to show overall piloting proficiency in all flight operational areas before their instructors could find them eligible for the prescribed check flight.
  • Flight instructor certificate requirements were upgraded to include a commercial pilot certificate, an instrument rating, ground instruction as well as flight instruction capability, and a class rating for instruction given in multi-engine airplanes and helicopters.
  • Private pilot certificate requirements included increased emphasis on flight instruction in night and operational problem areas. The required flight time remained at 40 hours, but the mandatory hours of flight instruction from a certified flight instructor were raised from 3 to 20.
  • Commercial pilot certificate applicants were required to have an instrument rating to qualify for unrestricted privileges. Flight time for a commercial license was raised from 200 to 250 hours, although 50 of these hours could be logged in a ground trainer.
Other new requirements included: more skills to be demonstrated for an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) rating; IFR checks for instrument-rated pilots with recent IFR experience lapses; and annual proficiency checks for pilots-in-command of aircraft certificated for more than one pilot.
Friday, November 1, 1974:New certification and operating standards for FAA-approved pilot schools went into effect. In an amendment to FAR Part 141, FAA upgraded standards while giving these schools increased responsibilities in pilot training and testing. Schools granted examining authority by FAA could recommend graduates for pilot certificates and ratings without those graduates having to pass FAA-administered flight or written tests. The new rules also set forth standardized curriculums for each course of approved training, thus assuring that graduates trained at different locales received the same quality of instruction.
Tuesday, November 12, 1974:For the first time in history an aircraft was given routine air traffic control instructions via aeronautical satellite relay. The milestone occurred when an ATC demonstration project controller at the National Aviation Facilities Experimental Center (NAFEC) issued a route change to an FAA KC-135 aircraft during a test using the ATS-6 satellite. NAFEC’s Experimental Oceanic Air Traffic Control Laboratory was the ground test facility for the ATS-6 ATC communications demonstrations, part of the joint Aerosat project involving the United States, Canada, and the European Space Research Organization (ESRO). (See May 9, 1974, and September 15, 1977.)
Wednesday, November 13, 1974:In an action to reduce the bird hazard to aviation, FAA announced guidelines aimed at banning garbage dumps or sanitary landfills within 10,000 ft. of runways used by turbojets and 5,000 ft. of those used by piston-engine aircraft. FAA personnel were instructed to inform airport operators that dumps or landfills closer than these limits should be closed. Those that could not be closed within a reasonable period of time should be operated under guidelines prescribed by the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Health, Education and Welfare, to minimize their attractiveness to birds.
November 18-27, 1974:The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) board of directors determined that the DC-9-50 was a “stretched” aircraft within the meaning of ALPA’s by-laws (see November 20-29, 1966). This decision, which reversed a previous finding by ALPA’s executive board, meant that the union would not necessarily oppose operation of the DC-9-50 by a two-pilot crew. At the same time, however, the board amended its by-laws to provide for three pilots on all turbine-powered transports, including stretched versions, certificated after January 1, 1975. (See November 23, 1971 and February 21, 1976.)
Sunday, December 1, 1974:A Northwest Airlines Boeing 727 crashed near Thiells, N.Y., killing all three persons aboard. Icing had blocked the aircraft’s pitot heads, causing erroneous air speed and Mach readings that contributed to a low-speed stall. On March 13, 1978, FAA published a rule requiring the installation within three years of a pitot heat indication system in all transport category aircraft having flight instrument pitot heating systems, and making such an indication system a type certification requirement for such aircraft.
Sunday, December 1, 1974:Approaching Dulles International Airport under conditions of poor visibility, a Trans World Airlines Boeing 727 descended too soon and crashed into a mountain near Berryville, VA, killing all 92 persons aboard. Unfamiliar with terrain to the immediate west of Dulles, the TWA captain interpreted a controller’s “cleared for approach” instruction to mean that he could descend to the final approach altitude of 1,800 feet immediately, although his chart indicated mountain peaks and a prescribed minimum altitude of 3,400 feet. The controller had assumed the pilot knew he was not to descend to 1,800 feet until he had cleared the mountains. Soon after the accident, FAA took steps to clarify pilot responsibilities for maintaining safe altitude by issuing a notice, followed by a regulatory amendment. This new rule explicitly required that in-bound pilots maintain their assigned altitude until they were given a new one or became established on a published route. FAA also issued additional guidance intended to ensure that controllers informed radar arrivals of any applicable altitude restrictions at the time that they issued an approach clearance. (See January 1, 1976.)
With FAA still under scrutiny for its handling of the DC-10 cargo door problem (see March 3, 1974), the TWA crash added to intense criticism of the agency (see December 27, 1974). The accident underscored the need for a cockpit device to alert pilots if they strayed too close to terrain, and FAA speeded work on a proposed rule to make a terrain warning system mandatory (see December 24, 1974). Other FAA actions in the wake of the TWA crash included the appointment of a Special Air Safety Advisory Group, composed of six retired airline captains, which submitted a variety of safety recommendations on July 30, 1975. Meanwhile, DOT established a task force on FAA’s safety mission (see January 28, 1975).
Wednesday, December 18, 1974:Secretary of Transportation Claude S. Brinegar announced his resignation, effective February 1, 1975. (See February 2, 1973.)
Tuesday, December 24, 1974:FAA published a rule requiring installation of the Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) on large turbojet and turboprop airliners. The equipment was to provide both visual and aural signals when the aircraft was less than 2,500 feet above the ground. The rule’s implementation deadline of December 1, 1975, was subsequently extended due to persisting technical difficulties, but all major airlines were in compliance by the end of 1976. A rule published on October 10, 1978, extended the GPWS requirement to smaller commuter airline turbojets if able to seat as many as ten passengers. (See December 1, 1974, and March 17, 1992.)
Friday, December 27, 1974:A House subcommittee chaired by Rep. Harley O. Staggers (D-WV) issued a report criticizing FAA as sluggish, insufficiently strict in its aircraft certification procedures, and too solicitous of the interests of the aviation industry. Cases cited by the committee included the agency’s handling of the DC-10 cargo door problem (see March 3, 1974). The committee also faulted FAA for slowness in requiring the Ground Proximity Warning System on airliners, a criticism underlined by the recent crash of a TWA jet (see December 1, 1974). On December 28, public confidence in FAA was further weakened by an ABC television broadcast, prepared by science editor Jules Bergman, that portrayed the agency as lax on postcrash survival and other safety issues.
Calendar Year 1974:FAA launched a program aimed at the renegotiation of bilateral airworthiness agreements with major aeronautical manufacturing countries. Previous U.S. bilateral agreements did not cover the export or import of all aviation products–engines, appliances, propellers, and other components. Since export sales frequently depended on foreign countries producing selected aircraft components, the lack of such agreements tended to inhibit the sale of U.S. aircraft abroad. (See January 26, 1972.)
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.