Friday, January 3, 1975:President Ford signed the Transportation Safety Act of 1974. Title I of this law, the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act, gave the Secretary of Transportation new regulatory and enforcement authority to combat the risks of transporting hazardous materials in commerce (see July 1, 1976). (Title II pertained to railroad safety, and Title III concerned the status of the National Transportation Safety Board: see April 1, 1975). Title I specifically limited radioactive materials that could be shipped on commercial passenger aircraft to those intended for research or medical use. AN FAA rule implemented this provision, effective May 3, 1975.
Effective March 7, meanwhile, FAA prohibited air carriage of hazardous material unless its container had been inspected to determine that, in all outward respects, it complied with packaging and marking requirements. In the case of radioactive materials, FAA also required scanning with a radiation monitoring instrument, after June 30, 1975 (a deadline later extended to January 1, 1976). The rule was based on a proposal published shortly after an incident on April 5-6, 1974, in which improperly shielded radioactive material had exposed airline passengers to unnecessary radiation.
Monday, January 6, 1975:FAA published a new regulation setting maximum noise levels for small propeller-driven aircraft that were newly produced or newly type-certificated. The rule was effective February 7, 1975, and applied to all propeller-driven airplanes under 12,500 pounds, with the exception of those used in agricultural and firefighting operations (which frequently required all available engine power to carry large loads). (See October 26, 1973, and December 23, 1976.)
Tuesday, January 21, 1975:FAA announced that it would study the effects of high-altitude flight on the earth’s atmosphere, building upon DOT’s recently-ended Climatic Impact Assessment Program, which had begun in 1971 in response to concern about environmental consequences of the fleets of supersonic transports then anticipated. FAA’s study, the High Altitude Pollution Program (HAPP), ended in 1982. Its final report, published in January 1984, concluded that the effects of civilian aircraft on ozone depletion and climactic change were not a cause of immediate concern at that time.
Saturday, January 25, 1975:Approaching Washington National Airport, a Beech King Air executive turboprop came in too low and crashed into a broadcasting tower at American University, killing all five aboard. The accident occurred in the wake of the crash of a TWA jetliner on approach to Washington Dulles airport, and it added to mounting criticism of FAA. (See December 1 and 27, 1974.)
Tuesday, January 28, 1975:The Secretary’s Task Force on the FAA Safety Mission convened to examine FAA’s organizational structure, management, and performance on safety issues. Secretary Claude S. Brinegar had appointed this special ten-person panel in response to criticism of FAA on such matters as the crash of TWA Flight 514 and the DC-10 cargo door problem (see December 1 and December 27, 1974). The task force was headed by Lt. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Environment, Safety, and Consumer Affairs. (See April 8 and April 30, 1975.)
Wednesday, January 1, 1975:FAA shut down the Fairbanks ARTCC, after 31 years of operation and transferred its functions to the Anchorage ARTCC.
Wednesday, February 19, 1975:FAA announced that it had ordered air taxi operators using business-type jets to equip these aircraft with Cockpit Voice Recorders and Flight Data Recorders by May 15, 1975. (See August 5, 1957, June 26, 1964, and March 25, 1987.)
Thursday, February 27, 1975:The Microwave Landing System (MLS) Executive Committee, a group of experts representing various Federal agencies, chose the time reference scanning beam (TRSB) technique over the Doppler scanning technique as the U.S. candidate for the international standard microwave landing system. The action by the committee ratified a recommendation made in late 1974 by the MLS Central Assessment Group (a recommendation participated in 140 experts assembled by FAA from around the world) and cleared the way for submission of the time reference scanning beam technique to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as the U.S. candidate for adoption as the international precision landing system of the future. (See June 7, 1973, and July 22 1975.)
Friday, March 7, 1975:William T. Coleman, Jr., became Secretary of Transportation. An attorney from Philadelphia, Coleman was the second black Cabinet member in American history. On January 14, President Ford had declared his intention to nominate Coleman to replace Claude S. Brinegar, who had announced his resignation on December 18, 1974. Coleman served the remainder of the Ford Administration, resigning effective January 20, 1977.
Tuesday, March 25, 1975:Alexander P. Butterfield announced his resignation as FAA Administrator, effective March 31, after publicized differences with recently departed Secretary of Transportation Claude S. Brinegar and amid sharp criticism of FAA’s recent safety record. President Ford had asked for his resignation in a move some interpreted as retribution for Butterfield’s role in helping uncover the Watergate scandal (see July 16, 1973). Deputy Administrator James E. Dow (see August 9, 1974) became Acting Administrator. (See November 24, 1975.)
Thursday, March 27, 1975:An FAA DC-3 crashed on takeoff from Boise, PA, injuring all 11 persons aboard. In determining the probable cause, the National Transportation Safety Board cited the inexperience of the pilot, who was not qualified for that type of aircraft. The pilot, a Regional Director, received a reprimand and 30-day suspension, and was later transferred to another position.
Tuesday, April 1, 1975:Effective this date, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was separated entirely from the Department of Transportation, in accordance with Title III of the Transportation Safety Act of 1974. Previously, NTSB had been an independent agency lodged within the Department for administrative purposes. In enacting Title III, Congress declared that the NTSB could not properly conduct its responsibility of determining the probable cause of transportation accidents without total separation and independence. (See October 15, 1966.)
Friday, April 4, 1975:A regulation governing the installation and safe operation of X-ray devices for screening carry-on luggage at airports became effective this date. The rule had been proposed on June 21, 1974, after a U.S. District Court judge declared that FAA acted illegally by allowing the X-ray machines to be installed without certifying as to their safety. The new regulation required testing to ensure that the devices complied fully with radiation level standards set by the Food and Drug Administration, and also provided for the training and protection of operators of this equipment.
Tuesday, April 8, 1975:Acting Administrator James E. Dow announced the establishment of the Aviation Safety Reporting Program (ASRP), designed to provide the agency with information on potentially unsafe conditions in the National Airspace System, effective May 1, 1975. To encourage the reporting of violations, the program granted immunity from disciplinary action to pilots or controllers who filed a timely report. No immunity was granted, however, in the case of “reckless operations, criminal offenses, gross negligence, willful misconduct, and accidents.” FAA remained free to take corrective or remedial action necessary for air safety.
Although such immunity programs had been instituted before (see January 1, 1968), the ASRP was the first not limited to reports of near midair collisions. The program’s establishment anticipated one of the recommendations being prepared by the Secretary’s Task Force on the FAA Safety Mission (see January 28, 1975), of which Dow served as Executive Secretary. The Air Line Pilots Association, skeptical of the ASRP, preferred a system in which a third party would process reports and protect their confidentiality. (See August 15, 1975.)
Monday, April 14, 1975:FAA eliminated the proposed requirement for altitude reporting transponders (Mode C) on all aircraft operating in Group II Terminal Control Areas (TCAs) 45 days before it was to go into effect (see June 8, 1973 and January 29, 1987). However, FAA still required aircraft operating to and from primary and secondary airports within the twelve Group II TCAs to carry a transponder capable of providing discrete identity information to air traffic controllers. In addition, the agency required aircraft to obtain authorization prior to entering the Group II TCAs, and to maintain two-way radio communications with controllers. The requirement for altitude reporting equipment had been strongly opposed by general aviation operators and by such general aviation organizations as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. (See January 1, 1974, and August 1, 1975.)
Wednesday, April 30, 1975:The Secretary’s Task Force on the FAA Safety Mission (see January 28, 1975) submitted its report. The Task Force commended FAA for having reestablished a no-fault aviation safety reporting program (see April 8, 1975), and made recommendations including:
- That FAA should continue to rely on industry for safety compliance inspections required in the certification process, but should strengthen its technical staff and improve its ability to monitor the performance of those delegated safety responsibilities. In addition, FAA should insist on more comprehensive design reviews in major aircraft and engine certification.
- That FAA should conduct audits in cooperation with the National Transportation Safety Board to ensure that problems cited by NTSB were worked out satisfactorily.
- That FAA’s rulemaking process, judged too slow, should be expedited by means of a priority system; the agency should also improve the clarity of the rules themselves and speed up their legal review.
- That FAA should take steps, including use of flight data monitoring systems, to improve aircrew performance.
- That air traffic controllers should give more attention to preventing collision with the ground, and that a standing group of FAA and aviation community representatives should review air traffic control procedures with the aim of increasing clarity and standardization.
- That FAA should continue as part of the Department of Transportation, but should not be subject to undue supervision by the Office of the Secretary.
- That an intensive review should be made of the FAA headquarters organization with the object of reducing the number of elements reporting to the Administrator. The task force recommended also that (1) a similar study be made of the FAA regional organization, with a view to consolidating regional functions and reducing the regions in number, and (2) that regional Engineering and Manufacturing (E & M) personnel engaged in aircraft certification be transferred from the regions to one or more E & M technical field centers that would report to FAA Headquarters at a level just below the Administrator.
- That FAA should strengthen its long-range research and development activity and establish one or more technical advisory committees.