FAA History: 1975

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.
Wednesday, May 7, 1975:FAA and PATCO reached agreement on a two-year contract (signed and effective July 8). The contract’s 74 articles included a guarantee of controller inclusion in the Aviation Safety Reporting Program (see April 8, 1975) and affected such matters as an expansion of familiarization flight privileges (see August 14, 1974), working conditions, and career enhancement. (See March 17, 1973, and July 28-31, 1976.)
Friday, May 9, 1975:FAA announced the beginning of a new airspace program to better delineate areas of military training activities. As of July 1, when requested by the military, the FAA began establishing Military Operations Areas (MOAs) for conducting such military flight activities such as familiarization training, intercept practice, and air combat maneuvers. FAA Flight Service Stations in the vicinity would inform visual flight rules (VFR) pilots when a given MOA was to be used for military purposes and how to traverse or circumnavigate it safely. Properly instructed VFR aircraft operated within an active MOA without special restrictions, while instrument flight rules (IFR) aircraft were afforded appropriate separation service. By the end of fiscal 1987, 354 MOAs were in existence.
Thursday, May 29, 1975:Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman, Jr., announced that FAA’s National Aeronautical Facilities Experimental Center (NAFEC) would remain at Atlantic City, N.J. On January 15, 1974, a study team had recommended that NAFEC be combined with the Aeronautical Center at Oklahoma City. (See May 29, 1980.)
Spring 1975:U.S. air carriers conducted extensive civil aviation operations in Southeast Asia as the United States wound down its Indochinese commitment with a final spurt of activity. Requiring close cooperation between FAA, the State Department, and the Department of Defense, the operations ranged from airlifting rice and munitions into Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to the climactic evacuation of U.S. civilians from Saigon, Vietnam, in late April.
Sunday, June 1, 1975:FAA received the first of the new ASR-8 airport surveillance radars. Features of the ASR-8 included a dual beam for expanded low-level coverage and a klystron transmitter tube that increased power output. (See August 25, 1960 and September 30, 1983.)
Tuesday, June 24, 1975:An Eastern Air Lines 727 crashed into approach lights while attempting to land during a thunderstorm at New York’s Kennedy airport, causing fatal injuries to 113 of the 124 persons aboard. The National Transportation Safety Board’s report stated that the crew probably relied too much on visual clues rather than instruments in assessing their altitude, but adverse winds may have been too strong for a successful approach even if they had avoided this error. The Board criticized air traffic control personnel for continued use of the runway after reports of wind shear from several incoming pilots.
Wind shear, a sudden change in wind speed and/or direction, may be produced by thunderstorms or even cloud formations that appear harmless. Large gust fronts can last for more than an hour and extend for several miles. In studying the Kennedy crash, however, the University of Chicago’s Dr. Theodore Fujita concluded that several separate cells of intense downdrafts had occurred in the vicinity of the 727’s approach path. He termed such phenomena “downbursts,” and later coined the term “microburst” to describe a small downburst (see May 15-August 13, 1982).
The Kennedy accident spurred FAA’s efforts to develop wind shear detection equipment for use both in the cockpit and on the ground, as well as improved methods for pilots to cope with the hazard. The agency tested measuring devices, and in November 1976 began a six-month test of forecasting techniques in cooperation with the National Weather Service. In 1977, FAA began operational testing of a ground-based wind shear detection system called the Surface Wind Monitoring System (SWIMS), later renamed the Low Level Wind Shear Alert System (see September 1978).
Monday, June 30, 1975:The original five-year funding authority of the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970 lapsed (see May 21, 1970). The Subcommittee on Aviation of the House Committee on Public Works and Transportation had opened hearings in March 1975 on extending the act’s funding authority, but did not report out a bill before the funding cutoff. A proposal by the Senate seeking a 90-day delay of the cutoff failed. (See July 12, 1976)
Tuesday, July 22, 1975:FAA announced that it had awarded contracts to the Bendix Corp. and Texas Instruments to build, test, and evaluate prototypes of the new microwave landing system (MLS) under Phase III of the MLS development program. Each contractor was to build two models of the system–the small community airport configuration and the basic configuration—using a time reference scanning beam signal format. (See February 27, 1975, and June 1976.)
Friday, August 1, 1975:The establishment of a Group II Terminal Control Area (TCA) at the new Kansas City International Airport completed the creation of 12 airport areas in this category. FAA defined each TCA after consultation with airport users. General aviation operators, in particular, registered many objections to proposed TCA rules and limits. Since the original concept in 1970, FAA reduced the number of Group II TCAs from 14 to 12. The locations were: St. Louis, Seattle, Minneapolis, Houston, Denver, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Las Vegas; and Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Kansas City. (See April 14, 1975, and May 15, 1980.)
Wednesday, August 13, 1975:FAA completed its longstanding program to implement the ARTS III automated radar terminal system at the nation’s busiest terminals on this date with the commissioning at the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Airport. All 61 ARTS III systems were now operational in the contiguous states, as well as one in Hawaii and one in Puerto Rico. The basic ARTS III contract had been signed in February 1969, and the first ARTS III procured under it became operational at Chicago O’Hare airport (see February 15, 1973). The sixty-second ARTS III, which went into operation in July 1975 at Atlanta Hartsfield airport, replaced an ARTS I–the prototype ARTS–which had been in operation there since 1965. (See August 10, 1976.)
Friday, August 15, 1975:FAA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) signed an agreement under which NASA would operate a third-party reporting system guaranteeing anonymity to persons providing information about safety hazards and incidents (see April 8, 1975). This system was designed to overcome fears that FAA’s Aviation Safety Reporting Program would not provide genuine immunity. NASA agreed to: receive and process reports; delete information that would reveal the identity of the informants; analyze and interpret the data; and provide the results to FAA and the aviation community. Information concerning criminal offenses, however, would be referred directly to FAA and the Justice Department. The system was to become operational by April 15, 1976 (see that date.)
Monday, August 25, 1975:In Senate testimony, Lockheed’s chairman stated that his company paid “kickbacks” to officials of foreign governments to encourage purchase of L-1011 aircraft, an admission that was followed by a series of revelations about the questionable overseas sales practices of Lockheed, Boeing, and McDonnell Douglas.
Tuesday, August 26, 1975:The commissioning of the computerized radar data processing system (RDP) at the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center marked the end of the final phase of the completion of NAS En Route Stage A, FAA’s program of automating and computerizing the nation’s en route air traffic control system, an effort covering more than a decade (see February 13, 1973). Miami was the last of the 20 ARTCCs to receive RDP capability.
The RDP system consisted of three key elements: radar digitizers located at long-range radar sites that converted raw radar data and aircraft transponder beacon signals into computer-readable signals transmitted to the centers’ computers; computer complexes in each center able to relay this information to the controllers’ screens; and new screens that displayed the information to the controllers in alphanumeric characters.
Tuesday, September 2, 1975:FAA released an analysis of Federal grants issued in the first five years of the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970 (see May 21, 1970). For the period, $37.5 million had been obligated under the Planning Grant Program (PGP) and $1.3 billion under the Airport Development Aid Program (ADAP). (This was a vast increase compared to the $1.2 billion disbursed during the entire 24-year history of the earlier Federal-aid airport program: see May 13, 1946). A total of 1,059 planning grants had been approved during the five-year period. Authorized funding for ADAP–initially $280 million annually and increased to $310 million in 1973 (see June 18, 1973)–had made it possible for FAA to approve aid for 2,434 development projects. With the help of these funds, 85 new airports were built and more than 1,000 received improvements that included: 178 new runways; 520 new taxiways; 201 runway extensions; 28 instrument landing systems, 141 runway end identifying lighting systems (REILS), 471 visual approach slope indicators (VASIs); security fencing; and equipment for crash, firefighting, and rescue.
Saturday, November 1, 1975:New procedures went into effect requiring air traffic controllers to provide an extra mile of separation between small aircraft landing behind large and heavy aircraft capable of generating hazardous wake turbulence (see March 1, 1970). Reflecting the findings of two special studies, the new procedures required that small aircraft be separated by 4 miles when landing behind large aircraft and by 6 miles when landing behind heavy aircraft. The “small” aircraft category (12,500 lbs. or less) included most of the country’s air taxis and general aviation aircraft. The “large” category (12,500-300,000 lbs.) included certain business aircraft such as the Sabreliner and Jetstar, the smaller DC-8s and Boeing 707s, and the Boeing 727 and 737. (The Boeing 757 also joined the “large” category after its certification in 1982.) The “heavy” category (300,000 lbs. or more) included the C-5A, DC-10, L-1011, Boeing 747, and the larger versions of the DC-8 and 707. (See Spring 1976 and December 19, 1992.)
Monday, November 24, 1975:Dr. John L. McLucas became the sixth FAA Administrator, succeeding Alexander P. Butterfield (see March 14, 1973). The President had persuaded McLucas to give up his portfolio as Secretary of the Air Force in favor of the FAA post. McLucas had been nominated by Ford on October 20 and confirmed by the Senate on November 13.
Born in Fayetteville, N.C., in 1920, McLucas held degrees from Davidson College and Tulane University. After serving as a Navy radar officer during World War II, he earned a doctorate in physics with a minor in electrical engineering at Pennsylvania State University in 1950. McLucas authored numerous scientific articles and held ten patents. He became vice president and later president of a private electronics firm, then joined the Defense Department in 1962 as Deputy Director of Defense Research and Engineering. Two years later, he became Assistant Secretary General for Scientific Affairs at NATO headquarters. In 1966, McLucas became president and chief executive officer of the MITRE Corporation, a nonprofit research organization established at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to work on technical problems for the government. He became Under Secretary of the Air Force in 1969, and was promoted to Secretary in 1973. McLucas served as FAA Administrator for 16 months, including the remainder of the Ford Administration and two months under President Jimmy Carter. (See April 1, 1977.)
Friday, December 26, 1975:The Soviet Union inaugurated the world’s first regular supersonic airline service, with the departure of a Tupolev-144 from Moscow for Alma-Ata in the Kazakh Republic. The plane carried only mail and cargo over the 2,500-mile route. (See January 21, 1976).
Monday, December 29, 1975:A high-intensity bomb exploded in a coin-operated locker at New York’s La Guardia Airport, killing 11, injuring 54, and doing extensive damage to the main terminal building. The incident, provoking national concern and leading to the creation of a special government-industry task force, caused FAA to issue a rule (effective April 15, 1976) requiring that checked baggage be screened for inspection under a “profile” system. FAA also accelerated efforts to develop automatic equipment capable of detecting explosives in lockers and cargo holds (see September 1985). In the meantime, the agency stepped up its Explosive Detection K-9 Dog Handler Team program begun in 1972 (see November 29, 1977). Following the La Guardia bombing, lockers at nearly all U.S. airports were placed in areas where they could be under surveillance.
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.