FAA History: 1978

Tuesday, January 10, 1978:A conflict alert system designed to warn air traffic controllers of potential midair collisions in busy terminal areas became operational at Houston International Airport, the first Automated Terminal Radar System (ARTS III) to be so equipped. The terminal conflict alert system was similar to the one installed in the 20 Air Route Traffic Control Centers (see January 9, 1976). In April 1980, FAA completed the commissioning of conflict alert at 62 designated terminals.
Friday, January 20, 1978:Fulfilling one of President Carter’s campaign promises, the Federal Aviation Administration and other executive agencies used the Zero Based Budget (ZBB) process in submitting its fiscal year 1979 budget proposal. In applying ZBB principles, the Office of the Secretary of Transportation divided FAA’s budget into 16 “decision units” which were expected to facilitate budget choices. For each unit, FAA developed four “decision packages,” reflecting four different funding levels, and then ranked the packages in priority order. ZBB continued during the Carter years but was discontinued under the Reagan Administration.
January 1978:FAA and the Office of the Secretary of Transportation submitted to Congress a new master plan for the long-delayed modernization of FAA’s 292 flight service stations (FSSs). The plan involved a three-stage process to complete system automation. The first stage involved the installation of semi-automated computer equipment at the 43 busiest stations. The second involved a choice between: the eventual consolidation of all 292 stations into 20 large ones, co-located at the 20 Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs), and modernization of up to 150 of the existing stations at their present sites. The decision on this stage could be postponed until 1982. The third stage would add the capacity for pilot self-briefings, thus completely automating the most important FSS function. FAA estimated that if the FSS system was left unchanged, up to 11,500 specialists would be needed to operate it by 1995, as opposed to only 4,500 in 1978. (See September 1977 and June 1979.)
Wednesday, February 22, 1978:Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams nominated the terminal building at Dulles International Airport for the National Register of Historic Places. Long recognized for the excellence of its design (see June 28, 1966), the terminal was ranked third on a list of important structures of the nation’s first 200 years in a 1976 poll sponsored by the American Institute of Architects. Concerns about FAA’s aesthetic stewardship of the terminal increased in 1977, when the agency announced plans for a large addition and stated its unwillingness to nominate the building to the National Register. After considerable public discussion, the proposed addition (for waiting rooms on the side of the terminal facing the airfield) was generally approved by critics. Inclusion on the National Register guaranteed that any future modifications would be submitted for review by the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Before actually placing the Dulles terminal on the National Register in May 1978, the Secretary of the Interior granted it a special exception from the Register’s rule excluding buildings less than 50 years old.
Friday, March 10, 1978:The United States and the Netherlands signed a new international aviation agreement, based on the principle of free competition and regarded as a model for similar understandings that the United States hoped to negotiate. On March 17, the United States also announced a new agreement with the United Kingdom, within the context of the Bermuda II treaty (see July 23, 1977), making possible a range of lower fares between the two nations. During 1978, the United States concluded liberal new aviation agreements with Israel and several other nations. In an August 21 statement explaining its negotiating stance, the Carter Administration declared that “maximum consumer benefits can be best achieved through the preservation and extension of competition between airlines in a fair market place.”
Wednesday, March 15, 1978:A three-year labor-management agreement between PATCO and FAA went into effect. Since the controllers’ pay had recently been adjusted in their favor by the Civil Service Commission (see November 12, 1976), the agreement dealt primarily with working conditions. The contract contained 75 articles, including provisions for overtime pay. In addition, FAA agreed to pay controllers’ salaries while on foreign as well as domestic familiarization flights. Previously, only controllers who handled international flights were eligible for overseas familiarization trips. In the past airlines had always provided free familiarization flights for eligible controllers, but now the principal overseas air carriers balked at the prospect of providing cockpit space on international flights for all air traffic controllers at the GS-10 or higher level. Even domestic familiarization flights were difficult to arrange in 1978 because of the airlines’ own active training programs. (See May 25, 1978.)
Thursday, March 16, 1978:In a regulation effective on this date, FAA permitted temporary operation of an aircraft without the required emergency locator transmitter (ELT). The rule responded to an amendment to the legislation that had mandated ELT use on most civil aircraft (see December 29, 1970). Because the equipment frequently malfunctioned, emitting false signals and causing other problems, Congress changed the law to permit operation of an aircraft for up to 90 days while its ELT was being inspected, modified, repaired, or replaced. (See March 28, 1979.)
Thursday, March 23, 1978:In response to a Federal court order (see June 2, 1976), FAA issued draft Environmental Impact Statements concerning the operation of Washington National and Dulles International Airports and published a notice of proposed policy for these airports. After comments on this proposal had been considered, Secretary of Transportation Neil Goldschmidt announced a new policy for National Airport on August 15, 1980. The new policy included: a 17 million cap on the number of passengers permitted at National per year; retaining the 60 slots per hour provided by the High Density Rule (see June 1, 1969), while reducing the share of slots for Part 121 air carriers from 40 to 36; prohibiting all departures between 10:30 pm and 7:00 am, and all arrivals between 11:00 pm and 7:00 am; lifting the ban on 2- and 3-engine widebody jets; and extending the nonstop service perimeter rule from a radius of 650 to 1,000 miles, with no exceptions (see April 24, 1966).
The new policy was scheduled to take effect on January 5, 1981, but its implementation was delayed. Because Congress attached a rider to DOT’s fiscal 1981 appropriations act that prohibited FAA from reducing the number of Part 121 airline slots until April 26, 1981, FAA decided to postpone the entire policy until after that date. Shortly after his inauguration, President Ronald Reagan pushed the effective date back again by his February 17, 1981, executive order that postponed final approval of pending regulations until the issuing agencies had reconsidered their actions. Because of this order, the new Secretary of Transportation, Drew Lewis, on March 25 ordered a review of the Goldschmidt policy and postponed its effective date until October 25, 1981. (See November 3, 1980, and December 6, 1981.)
March 27-28, 1978:In an extreme example of opposition to new airports, about 6,000 demonstrators rioted at the new Tokyo Airport near Narita, Japan, on the eve of its scheduled opening, some smashing equipment inside the control tower. Protesting farmers and students had already delayed the airport opening for five years, largely by erecting tall towers along the flight paths. The airport eventually opened on May 20.
March 1978:The first ARTS-IIIA, an improved model of the Automated Radar Terminal System III, became operational at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City (see August 10, 1976). Features of the new model included the capacity to track and identify planes not equipped with transponder beacons, and a backup system to maintain alphanumeric tags on controllers’ screens in case of a computer failure in the primary circuits. (See December 1979.)
Thursday, April 6, 1978:Eastern Air Lines signed a $778 million contract to add 23 Airbus Industrie A-300 aircraft to its fleet. FAA Administrator Langhorne Bond called the airplane “the strongest challenge to the U.S. aircraft industry in years,” reflecting widespread concern about the absence of an American entry in the market for smaller wide-body jets to replace the aging first generation of jet transports. Airbus Industrie had mounted an aggressive campaign to secure the Eastern order, allowing the airline to operate four A-300s on a six-month cost-free lease, with the manufacturer paying for all legal fees, tariffs, certification charges, maintenance, and repairs. Airbus Industrie provided $96 million in financing and promised to compensate Eastern for certain operating costs.
Monday, April 17, 1978:National Weather Service meteorologists began working at 13 of FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Centers under a recently signed agreement between the two agencies. At each of those centers, a team of three NWS meteorologists provided information on hazardous weather throughout the day to center controllers, as well as to FAA towers and flight service stations. FAA provided each center with new equipment for receiving data from NWS weather radar and satellites. This new program was part of a general effort to provide pilots with more en route weather information, since the lack of accurate knowledge of hazardous weather, particularly thunderstorms, had been found responsible for several air crashes (see May 19, 1977). NWS meteorologists were already on duty at FAA’s national flow control center in Washington, and by November 1980 they were stationed at all U.S. mainland en route centers.
Wednesday, April 19, 1978:The All-Weather Operations Division of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) voted to adopt the FAA-sponsored time reference scanning bean (TRSB) microwave landing system for future use at the world’s airports. A special technical panel had earlier recommended the U.S.-sponsored system (see March 16, 1977), but the small size of the panel and the heated nature of its deliberations had partially discredited its conclusion. As a result, backers of the competing British and U.S.-Australian systems staged worldwide lobbying campaigns to support the adoption of their system. When the ICAO body began its meeting in early April, the decision appeared to be further complicated by the late entry of a West German MLS based on distance-measuring equipment (DME). The FAA delegation, however, agreed to begin research on how to incorporate the 360-degree azimuth coverage of the DME system into the TRSB. This helped to clear the way for the selection of TRSB by a vote of 39 to 24, with 8 abstentions. Although the TRSB was now referred to the Air Navigation Council of ICAO for the definition of standards, Third World nations at the conference succeeded in gaining agreement to a ten-year extension (from 1985 to 1995) of the period during which existing instrument landing systems would be protected. (See January 28, 1982.)
Thursday, April 20, 1978:FAA proposed a new and much higher schedule of user fees for certificating airmen and for aircraft registrations. The agency based the proposal on an existing government policy, contained in a statute of 1952, that individuals or groups receiving special services from Federal agencies should pay their cost. In 1967, FAA had proposed a new fee schedule, but withdrew the proposal after the General Accounting Office pointed out that it did not entirely meet the costs of the services supplied. The April 1978 proposal encountered considerable opposition from within the aviation community, and Congress adopted legislation prohibiting FAA from implementing the proposed fees without prior congressional approval. FAA withdrew the proposal on May 8, 1981, stating that the data on which it was based were no longer valid.
Thursday, May 25, 1978:PATCO began intermittent slowdowns to protest the refusal of some U.S. flag carriers to provide controllers with overseas familiarization flights. The slowdowns lasted until May 26 and were renewed on June 6-7. Delays were especially severe because of the increased air travel resulting from new low transatlantic and domestic fares (see March 15, 1978, and June 21, 1978).
Monday, June 19, 1978:President Jimmy Carter signed a law renaming the FAA Aeronautical Center at Oklahoma City the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center. A. S. (“Mike”) Monroney represented Oklahoma in both houses of Congress for 30 years, and served as chairman of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee from 1955 until his retirement in 1969. He was a principal sponsor of the Federal Aviation Act (see May 21, 1958), the Airport and Airways Development Act (see May 21, 1970), and many other pieces of aviation legislation. The Aeronautical Center, located in Oklahoma City through Monroney’s efforts, was then the largest FAA facility, incorporating the FAA Academy, the central records center for aircraft and airmen’s certificates, a major FAA supply depot, and the Civil Aeromedical Institute (see December 13, 1959). On October 13, 1978, Administrator Bond presided over ceremonies rededicating the facility.
Wednesday, June 21, 1978:The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) agreed to obey a Federal-court injunction and end a “work to rule” slowdown by its members that had intermittently snarled air traffic during the spring, particularly during the period May 25-26 and June 6-7 (see May 25, 1978). PATCO also agreed to pay a fine of $100,000 to the Air Transport Association for violating the permanent injunction won by the ATA in 1970 against air traffic slowdowns (see May 4, 1979).
Monday, June 26, 1978:FAA established the Special Aviation Fire and Explosion Reduction (SAFER) Advisory Committee to examine the topic of post-crash survival of aircraft cabin occupants. The committee’s 24 members were drawn from airlines, aircraft manufacturers, universities, research organizations, as well as flight and cabin crews. Formation of the committee resulted from two hearing held by FAA during 1977 regarding four rulemaking proposals concerning fire hazards in transport aircraft. The hearings reflected a consensus that the issues addressed in the four rules were interrelated and should be addressed systematically as one problem.
In view of the SAFER committee’s establishment, FAA on August 24 published a notice withdrawing the four rulemaking proposals. One of these, published on April 4, 1974, would have required fuel tank explosion prevention systems. The other three concerned the effects of fire on compartment interior materials: toxic gas emission standards (published December 30, 1974); smoke emission standards (February 12, 1975); and replacement of existing materials that did not meet flammability standards (July 11, 1975). FAA expressed confidence that it would be able to develop comprehensive standards in the near future due to ongoing research and the SAFER committee’s work.
Issuance of the four proposed rules during 1974 and 1975 had followed a fiery crash at Pago Pago (see January 30, 1974). The collision at Tenerife further demonstrated the destructive potential of fire (see March 27, 1977). During 1977, FAA intensified its research on post-crash fire, and signed an agreement with the United Kingdom on cooperation in developing anti-misting kerosene fuel, known as AMK. In November 1978, FAA also announced that a new test laboratory for fire research would be built at its National Aviation Facilities Experimental Center. (See September 10, 1980)
Monday, July 17, 1978:At an economic summit conference in Bonn, the leaders of United States, West Germany, France, Great Britain, Japan, Canada, and Italy announced a joint resolution to isolate from international air traffic all countries harboring air hijackers. In the resolution, they stated their intent to stop all flights to any country that refused to extradite or prosecute those who have hijacked an aircraft and/or failed to return such an aircraft. The resolution also called for a ban on incoming flights from an offending nation, as well as a ban on any traffic to it by airlines of participating countries. The conferees informally agreed to make no exceptions, not even for persons escaping from totalitarian governments. Diplomatic efforts were begun to gain the agreement of as many other countries as possible.
The Bonn Resolution followed the doubling of hijacking attempts throughout the world in 1977 — the death toll in hijackings for that year was 129 persons. In Dec, a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 737 crashed after being hijacked, killing all 100 persons aboard. The most spectacular incident of 1977, however, was the five-day odyssey of a Lufthansa B-737 hijacked in October over the Mediterranean and flown to various places in the Near East. The hijackers murdered the pilot, and later, in Somalia, threatened to massacre the other 86 people on board. Just 90 minutes before their deadline, West German commandos stormed the aircraft and rescued all the hostages. After this episode, the International Federation of Air Line Pilots threatened a two-day international pilots’ strike unless the United Nations took immediate action on air piracy. In Dec, the Flight Engineers International Association urged extradition or prosecution of hijackers held in four countries.
Tuesday, July 25, 1978:A new FAA regulation extended to both domestic and international charter operations security screening procedures long in effect for scheduled airlines. Although no charter aircraft operating from American airports had ever been hijacked, FAA took this action in response to two recent developments: the worldwide increase in hijacking attempts (see July 17, 1978), and rulings of CAB that relaxed many of the regulations that governed charter operations. The old requirement that only “affinity” groups could qualify for reduced charter fares had heretofore been regarded as a protection against hijackers, but that was among the rules no longer applied by CAB.
Friday, August 4, 1978:The Department of Transportation Appropriation Act signed by President Carter on this date discontinued funding for the Air Traffic Controllers Second Career Program (see May 16, 1972). FAA Administrator Bond said later that congressional anger over recent controller slowdowns (see June 21, 1978) may have cost them their special rehabilitation program, but it had in fact been under attack for some time. Two studies–by the House Appropriations Committee staff and by the General Accounting Office–were begun in 1977 and issued to Congress in 1978. The GAO report revealed that about 50 percent of the 2,580 controllers eligible to participate in the program since 1972 either declined or withdrew from training, and only 7 percent of those who had completed training actually entered the new careers they had prepared for. The cost for each successful participant had averaged $370,000. About 1,900 former controllers had enrolled in the program, and its total cost since fiscal year 1973 had been $104 million. The House Appropriations Committee report suggested that controllers who had been incapacitated on the job should seek rehabilitation services under the auspices of the Office of Worker’s Compensation. FAA agreed that the program had not been a success and did not contest the conclusions of either report. An attempt to restore the program failed in the House of Representatives in December 1979.
Thursday, August 10, 1978: A five-year, FAA-funded study of the health problems of air traffic controllers challenged the generally held view that unusually high incidences of ulcers, psychiatric problems, and other serious stress-related diseases were to be found among controllers. A team of researchers, led by Robert Rose from the University of Texas, did find higher-than-normal rates of hypertension, social drinking, and minor psychological problems among controllers. They concluded, however, that these did not lead to incapacitating conditions. The most common psychological problem they discovered was “impulse control difficulties”– i.e., dealing with sudden emotions like anger. The researchers found that a more serious mental problem, controller burnout, was mostly limited to those controllers who expected it to occur. Despite the abnormal rates of social drinking, controllers had lower rates of alcoholism than the national average. As for hypertension, researchers cautioned against the conclusion that it was directly related to the work of controlling air traffic, since other “risk factors” were also important. The findings of the Rose Report, or officially the Air Traffic Controller Health Change Study, confirmed similar ones in studies by the FAA’s Civil Aeromedical Institute. (See March 5, 1969.)
August 11-17, 1978:Ben L. Abruzzo, Maxie L. Anderson, and Larry M. Newman made history’s first balloon crossing of the Atlantic. Flying in a helium-filled balloon dubbed the Double Eagle II, they lifted off from Presque Isle, Maine, and landed near the village of Miserey, France, 50 miles west of Paris.
Sunday, August 27, 1978:FAA issued a type certificate under FAR Part 23 for the twin-turboprop Bandeirante aircraft manufactured by Embraer of Brazil, thus clearing the way for export to the United States. The Bandeirante was one of several foreign airplane types expected to see service on expanding U.S. commuter airline routes. The airplane could carry up to 19 passengers, and was the only non-pressurized, non-STOL airliner of its size still in production.
Sunday, September 10, 1978:The following changes in the Washington Headquarters organization became effective on this date:
  • The Office of General Aviation was abolished. The aviation education program was transferred to the Office of Aviation Policy.
  • The Associate Administrator for Policy Development and Review was redesignated as the Associate Administrator for Policy and International Aviation Affairs.
  • The Office of International Aviation Affairs was placed under the executive direction of the Associate Administrator for Policy and International Aviation Affairs. The position of Assistant Administrator for International Aviation Affairs was retitled Director of International Aviation Affairs.
  • The Office of Environmental Quality was renamed the Office of Environment and Energy to reflect the newly assigned responsibility for national aviation policy concerning energy matters (see December 22, 1979).
Monday, September 25, 1978:A midair collision over San Diego between a Pacific Southwest Airlines Boeing 727 and a Cessna 172 caused more fatalities than any previous civil aviation accident within U.S. airspace. All 137 persons aboard the two aircraft and seven on the ground were killed. Both aircraft were transponder-equipped and were operating in clear weather under local air traffic control when they collided at 2,600 feet. Both pilots had been warned of the presence of the other aircraft. The PSA pilot, which was overtaking the smaller plane, had received clearance for visual, “see-and-avoid” separation procedures after reporting to controllers that he had the Cessna in sight.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the accident’s probable cause was the PSA crew’s failure to comply with the provisions of a maintain-visual-separation clearance, including the requirement to inform the controller if they no longer had the other aircraft in sight. The Board cited as a contributing factor the procedures that allowed controllers to authorize visual separation procedures when the capability to provide radar separation was available.
NTSB member Francis H. McAdams dissented, citing the use of visual air traffic control (ATC) procedures as part of the probable cause rather than merely contributory. He also listed a number of contributing factors, mostly inadequacies of the ATC system. Among these were failure to resolve an automated conflict-alert alarm that the approach controller had disregarded on the assumption that the pilots were maintaining visual separation. (NTBS later adopted McAdams’ viewpoint in an August 1982 amendment that included both ATC and pilot failings in the probable cause finding.)
The San Diego accident followed another midair collision that had occurred on May 10, 1978, between a Falcon Jet and a Cessna 150 over Memphis, Tenn., with the loss of six lives. The NTSB’s finding of probable cause in that case cited the failure of controllers to maintain proper separation as well as the pilots’ failure to see and avoid each other. The two accidents set off intense criticism of FAA’s ATC program and the pace of its plans to develop an airborne collision-avoidance system. (See December 27, 1978.)
Tuesday, September 26, 1978:A Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR 37) permitted persons who were not in the air transportation business to receive payment for the carriage of candidates in Federal elections. The SFAR responded to a Federal Elections Commission requirement that candidates pay for air transportation. As a result of the election rule, owners of private and business aircraft who offered transportation to candidates were required to comply with the rules for commercial operations (i.e., Federal Aviation Regulations Part 135 instead of the less demanding Part 91). Air taxi and charter operators strongly criticized the SFAR, which lapsed in June 1980.
September 1978:FAA’s Low Level Wind Shear Alert System (LLWAS) became operational on a full-time basis at seven major airports. The agency announced that 17 other airports would be similarly equipped during 1979. The new system detected the severe downdrafts and wind changes associated with the phenomenon of wind shear (see June 24, 1975) by means of sensors around the airport periphery that measured wind speed and direction. A mini-computer compared the readings from these detectors with readings at the center of the airport and, when significant differences were found, sounded an alarm in the tower. Controllers could then warn pilots of the problem. In October 1979, FAA announced a contract for 34 more units, which would bring the number of LLWAS-equipped airports to 58. (See July 9, 1982.)
Thursday, October 12, 1978:President Carter signed Public Law 95-452, establishing Offices of Inspector General in the Department of Transportation and several other departments and agencies. The independent offices were to conduct objective audits and investigations of programs and operations.
Tuesday, October 24, 1978:President Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 allowing immediate fare reductions of up to 70 percent without CAB approval, and the automatic entry of new airlines into routes not protected by other air carriers. CAB’s authority over fares, routes, and mergers was to be phased out entirely before 1983, and, unless Congress acted, CAB itself would shut down by January 1, 1985. The prospective abolition of CAB brought to a culmination the work of Chairman Alfred E. Kahn at that agency (see June 10, 1977). Moreover, by October 1978, the major emphasis of deregulation had changed from an ideological campaign against government regulation to a key element in the President’s effort to curb inflation. This was highlighted by the President’s appointment of Kahn as head of his anti-inflation program, which was announced on this date.
This day also ended the week-long vigil of twenty-two airline representatives who had lined up outside CAB headquarters to submit first-come-first-serve applications for dormant airline routes under the terms of the new act. By the end of the year, CAB had awarded 248 new airline routes to these applicants. Smaller communities, from which the airlines might wish to shift their operations, were guaranteed essential air services for 10 years under the act, with a government subsidy if necessary. Along with the subsidies for smaller-city service, the act provided for the inclusion of commuter airlines in the FAA equipment loan guarantee program and in uniform methods for establishing joint fares between air carriers. It also authorized the use of larger aircraft by commuter airlines. These special provisions for commuter airlines boosted their already-booming growth rates, and led to important new FAA regulations later in 1978 (see December 1, 1978).
The Airline Deregulation Act also revived the aircraft loan guaranty program (see September 7, 1977), raising the total amount that could be guaranteed for any eligible participant from $30 million to $100 million, expanding the eligible participants to include charter air carriers, commuter air carriers, and intrastate air carriers, and extending the term of eligible loans to 15 years. Congress withdrew authority for the program in 1983, however, and FAA ceased issuing new loan guarantees after June 30 of that year. Over its life, the program had guaranteed 106 loans totaling $900 million. Twelve airlines had defaulted on 23 of the loans for a loss of $182 million, but FAA had been able to recover $132 million.[see: President Carter’s remarks at the signing]
Sunday, October 29, 1978:Pan American World Airways discontinued most of its European services, withdrawing from Amsterdam, Ankara, Lisbon, Paris, Moscow, Vienna, and all of Eastern Europe except Warsaw. Denouncing the new “open skies” policy (see March 10, 1978) as a “giveaway,” the airline shifted its attention to finding a domestic merger partner.
Thursday, November 2, 1978:FAA officially established the Office of the Associate Administrator for Aviation Standards, with the Office of Aviation Safety, the Civil Aviation Security Service, and the Flight Standards Service placed under its executive direction (see July 10, 1979). The agency retitled the position of Assistant Administrator for Aviation Safety the Director of Aviation Safety.
Monday, November 20, 1978:In a joint program to deal with the hazards posed by birds and other animals to aircraft, FAA and the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of Interior agreed to improve training programs for airport personnel and conduct more sophisticated research on the problem. FAA estimated that, since 1940, bird collisions had led to 140 aviation deaths, and that 1,200 bird strikes in an average year caused approximately $20 million in damage to military and civilian aircraft.
Friday, December 1, 1978:Effective this date, FAA promulgated a comprehensive revision of Federal Aviation Regulations Part 135, governing air taxi and commuter airline operations, the fastest growing segment of the air transportation business. Since the Civil Aeronautics Board had created the designation “commuter airlines” (see July 1, 1969), the number of passengers on these lines had increased at an average annual rate of over 10 percent; the growth rate in 1977 was 16.5 percent. The new competitive environment created by airline deregulation (see October 24, 1978) was expected to bring ever greater increases.
As the commuter airline and air taxi business had grown in the 1960s and 1970s, FAA had tried to tailor new regulations for it; however, serious doubts remained about the safety of the industry (see December 26, 1972). An important aim of the revised Part 135 was to bring the safety level of the commuter airlines more closely in line with that of the major airlines operating under Part 121. The new rules required pilots of virtually all multi-engine commuter airliners to hold an airline transport pilot’s rating. Depending on the size of their operations and aircraft, commuter airlines were required to have a director of operations, a chief pilot, and a director of maintenance, as well as more stringent programs of maintenance and pilot training and testing. Again depending on size, FAA also required commuter airliners to have such equipment as a ground proximity warning indicator, a third attitude gyro, and thunderstorm detection equipment. The safety upgrade, and the fact that requirements were tied to the size and complexity of operations, permitted FAA to raise the maximum size of aircraft included under Part 135. Commuter airlines and commercial operators could now use aircraft with a seating capacity of up to 30 passengers or a payload of up to 7500 lb.
Tuesday, December 12, 1978:The first production model of the Automated Radar Terminal System (ARTS) II began service at Toledo, Ohio (see October 1, 1976). The device was developed for airports whose traffic volume did not warrant the much more costly ARTS III in use at major hubs. Designed around a minicomputer, the ARTS II lacked the full-scale system’s ability to predict where a target would be on the next radar scan, and to calculate its ground speed. Like the ARTS III, however, it provided controllers with alphanumeric tags that indicated the identity, heading, and altitude of transponder-equipped aircraft. In addition, the ARTS II allowed controllers to record and receive flight data from adjacent air route traffic control centers. Developed by the Burroughs Corp. under contracts concluded in 1974, ARTS II was eventually installed at over 80 airports. It replaced engineering models developed by other manufacturers that had been in service at Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and Knoxville, Tenn. (See July 24, 1985.)
Wednesday, December 27, 1978:FAA Administrator Bond and Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams announced a regulatory program to reduce the risk of midair collisions by 80 percent. Formulated in response to criticism of FAA after the San Diego midair collision (see September 25, 1978), and submitted as a notice of proposed rulemaking, the program included:
  • Establishing new voluntary Terminal Radar Service Areas (TRSAs) at 80 air carrier airports (see December 22, 1983), and establishing new Terminal Control Areas (TCAs) at 44 additional airports.
  • Lowering the floor of positive area control from 18,000 feet to 10,000 feet over the States east of the Mississippi and much of California, and to 12,000 feet over the rest of the contiguous 48 States.
  • Establishing a new flight category, controlled visual flight rules, for positive airspace below 18,000 feet, which would allow non-instrument rated pilots to use the airspace above 10,000 feet with radar separation provided by air traffic controllers.
  • Requiring all aircraft operating in TRSAs and TCAs to have altitude-reporting transponders installed by July 1981. All transponders installed after July 1982 would have to incorporate the new Discrete Area Beacon Systems (DABS), which would provide an automatic data link with a ground-based collision avoidance system (see March 4, 1976 and June 23, 1981).
  • Requiring all airliners and air taxi aircraft to carry an airborne “active” Beacon Collision Avoidance System (BCAS) by January 1985. A proposed national standard for such systems had been issued earlier in December. (See June 23, 1981.)
These proposals elicited a massive negative public response, much of it orchestrated by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). On September 7, 1979, Administrator Bond announced he had withdrawn all the en route proposals. Although the general plan to increase the number of TCAs temporarily remained in effect, FAA gradually withdrew most of the proposed new TCAs. (See May 15, 1980.)
Thursday, December 28, 1978:Administrator Bond established a Light Transport Airplane Airworthiness Review looking to the adoption, in December 1980, of a new FAR Part 24 that would establish separate airworthiness standards for airplanes intended for commuter operations. FAA had airworthiness standards for two basic designations of airplanes: Part 23 for airplanes 12,500 pounds or under that seated up to nine passengers, and Part 25 for transport category airplanes. FAA proposed to apply the new certification category to airplanes that carried up to 60 passengers and had a maximum takeoff weight of 50,000 pounds. In December 1980, however, FAA withdrew the proposal. Foreign manufacturers, already manufacturing commuter aircraft under the more stringent Part 25 standards, opposed the new rule. FAA also determined that the savings in costs between manufacturing airplanes under the proposed standards and the existing Part 25 standards would be minimal.
Calendar Year 1978:Aircraft of U.S. registry experienced eight hijacking attempts during 1978–the highest level since the screening of passengers and carry-on luggage was instituted in early 1973. None of the hijackers, however, had been able to slip firearms or explosives through airport screening points. Their claims to have a gun or bomb in their possession proved to be false in every case. The eight hijacking attempts were the most since 1972, when 27 attempts were made, eight of them successful. In the six years since beginning mandatory screening, hijackers had attempted to commandeer U.S. airlines on 25 separate occasions. None involved the smuggling of weapons through a screening point, and only one was successful.
Primary Sources:
Dated items within 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 FAA History Pages content has been added (and more will be added at a later date) from Wikipedia and other sources. These additional dated items include significant accidents, Whistleblower case actions, various news items, ATC technology developments, etc.