FAA History: 1982

Wednesday, January 13, 1982:A Boeing 737 operated by Air Florida crashed near Washington National Airport shortly after taking off during snowfall. The aircraft hit a bridge, killing 4 persons in vehicles, and plunged into the icy Potomac River. Of the 79 persons aboard the jet, only four passengers and one flight attendant survived. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the crash was the crew’s failure to use the engine anti-icing system during ground operation and takeoff, their decision to take off with snow/ice on the airfoil surfaces, and the captain’s failure to abort takeoff when his attention was called to anomalous engine instrument readings. Contributing to the accident were: prolonged delay between deicing by ground crew and takeoff, during which the aircraft was exposed to continual snowfall; the known pitch-up characteristics of the 737 when the leading edge was contaminated by even small amounts of snow or ice; and the crew’s limited experience in jet transport winter operations. As a result of the accident, FAA and the aviation industry took a number of actions to increase awareness of cold weather hazards and the proper response to them. (See December 12, 1985.)
Saturday, January 23, 1982:In a night landing too far down an icy runway at Boston’s Logan airport, a World Airways DC-10 slid over the edge of a seawall and into shallow harbor water. The nose section separated from the fuselage, and two passengers seated at the separation point were later found to be missing and presumed drowned. In its original report on the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board listed pilot error as a contributory factor, but found the probable cause to be the pilot’s lack of information on the slippery runway conditions. The Board blamed this lack on the airport management and on FAA, citing inadequate regulation and air traffic controllers’ failure to relay runway condition reports. After protests from FAA and the airport authority, the Board issued a revised finding that placed somewhat more emphasis on pilot error.
Thursday, January 28, 1982:FAA released a National Airspace System Plan (NAS Plan or NASP), a comprehensive 20-year blueprint for modernizing the nation’s air traffic control and air navigation system. The 450-page document had been printed the previous month and bore the date December 1981. It spelled out specific improvements to be made to facilities and equipment to meet the projected demands of air transportation. Key elements of the plan included:
  • Computers: FAA would first replace the IBM 9020 computers at the air route traffic control centers with more powerful computers that could use the existing programs or “software packages.” The agency would then proceed with development of new software as well as new consoles and displays known as “sector suites.” (See August 30, 1982.)
  • Facility consolidation: air route traffic control centers and terminal radar control rooms would be consolidated from approximately 200 into about 60 by the year 2,000 (see March 22, 1983). Flight service stations would be consolidated from about 300 into 61 automated facilities. (See October 2, 1981.)
  • Radars: a new secondary radar system would interrogate aircraft transponders on an individual basis, paving the way for automatic “data link” air-ground communications. This Mode S equipment (“S” for “selective address”), in combination with a new generation of Doppler weather radar, would also permit the replacement of the existing primary en route radar system. Primary radar would be retained in terminal areas, however, and be improved with the addition of a separate weather channel. (See October 5, 1984.)
  • Weather services: were to be upgraded by such means as direct pilot access to computer weather data via remote terminals or touchtone telephones (see March 14, 1984). Automated sensors at airports would generate radio broadcasts on surface conditions, improving safety and allowing lower weather minimums for landing (see January 26, 1983).
  • The Microwave Landing System (MLS): full production procurement was to be initiated in fiscal 1983, with over 1,250 to be in place before century’s end (see April 19, 1978 and January 12, 1984). FAA expected the new equipment to provide precision guidance over a much broader area than the existing Instrument Landing Systems, thus allowing greater operational flexibility. Following the publication of this initial NAS Plan, FAA issued updated editions annually (see February 8, 1991).
Thursday, February 18, 1982:A special rule issued this date amended the Interim Operations Plan for air traffic control (see August 3, 1981). The new rule provided procedures to be used April 25-October 30 in scheduling and in allocating airport landing reservations (“slots”) at the 22 airports at which operations were limited due to the PATCO strike. New entrants were more clearly defined, and a system initiated that accorded such carriers high priority in awarding such additional capacity as became available. A random draw was implemented for determining the order in which carriers’ requests for more slots were processed. (See March 6, 1984.)
Friday, February 19, 1982:The Boeing 757 first flew. On December 21, 1982, FAA certificated the first version of the Boeing 757, a narrow-body jet capable of carrying up to 219 passengers in short/medium range flights and designed to replace the Boeing 727, the single most popular jetliner model produced to date, but obsolescent in terms of noise, fuel efficiency, and flight crew productivity. Powered by two Rolls-Royce 535C engines, the 757 was the first Boeing airliner launched with foreign-made engines. Eastern Air Lines and British Airways had placed orders for the medium-range airliner on August 31, 1978.
Monday, March 15, 1982:The Safety Regulations Staff in FAA’s Office of the Associate Administrator for Aviation Standards was abolished and its functions were transferred to a new Safety Regulations Division established in the Office of Aviation Safety.
Wednesday, March 17, 1982:FAA announced that it had received the first of 950 new radio navigation aids (VORs and VORTACs) with solid state construction and other advanced features for installation during the next three years. The National Airspace System Plan called for replacement of all vacuum tube radio navigation aids with the reliable solid state equipment over the next 20 years. (See September 5, 1974 and August 3, 1982.)
Thursday, April 22, 1982:Tighter rules for aircraft entering the south Florida area through off-shore Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZs) became effective. Previously, aircraft flying at less than 180 knots had not been required to file flight plans and make regular position reports in any ADIZ off the coast of the continental U.S. Now all aircraft entering an ADIZ south of the 30th parallel and east of the 86th meridian had to comply with these requirements, regardless of their airspeed. In addition, FAA now required pilots flying into any ADIZ to report if their aircraft carried a transponder–and if so, what kind. The agency mandated changes in response to increased flights by drug smugglers. (See September 1, 1987.)
Monday, May 10, 1982:FAA began an experimental program of allowing airlines to buy, sell, and transfer airport landing “slots” among themselves. The program included a “use or lose” provision and restrictions on transfer by carriers allotted slots on the basis of essential air service. On July 6, FAA announced that it was suspending the buy-sell policy, but would continue to allow the exchange or trade of slots. On August 5, the agency announced that it was easing certain restrictions on this slot trading. (See March 6, 1984, and December 20, 1985.)
Wednesday, May 12, 1982:Braniff International Airways suspended operations, quickly filing for protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. (See March 1, 1984.)
May 15-August 13, 1982:The National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Chicago conducted a field experiment in the vicinity of Denver as part of the Joint Airport Weather Studies (JAWS) Project. FAA and many other agencies and research groups participated in JAWS, which employed Doppler radars and a variety of other data sources. The project resulted in new understanding of wind shear microbursts, yielding information on their formation, duration, decay, severity, and movement. (See June 24, 1975, and July 9, 1982.)
Monday, June 7, 1982:The National Airspace Review (NAR) program convened the first two of 16 task groups organized to study various aspects of the airspace system. FAA had introduced the NAR concept in April 1981 with the announcement of a meeting to allow airspace users to participate in formulating the program, and had published a proposed plan for the review on August 10, 1981. Composed of representatives of FAA, the military, and the civil aviation community, the task groups submitted a host of recommended improvements, such as the Airport Radar Service Area (ARSA) concept (see December 22, 1983), for the FAA Administrator’s consideration. By the December 4, 1984, final meeting of the Executive Committee that had guided the NAR during its initial stage, the NAR had generated 850 recommendations, over 500 of which had already been implemented or approved for implementation. During its next phase, the NAR focused on the future rather than the present system, and the Office of Management Systems assumed responsibility for guiding the program.
Friday, July 2, 1982:The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization filed a request for liquidation under Chapter 7 of the Federal Bankruptcy Act. According to Gary Eads, who had become PATCO’s president on January 1, 1982, the union had about $5 million in assets but owed $40 million, including $33.4 million to the airlines for violating a 1970 Federal court anti-strike injunction. Last November 25, PATCO had filed a motion in Federal court seeking to freeze its assets while it reorganized under Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Act. After filing to liquidate under Chapter 7, Eads declared, “It is over for PATCO. The union is gone.” (See December 31, 1981, and June 19, 1987.)
Friday, July 2, 1982:Truck driver Larry Walters reached a reported 16,000 ft. over Long Beach, Calif., during a 45-minute flight in a lawn chair tied to balloons, crashing into a power line on descent but alighting unharmed. FAA fined Walters $1,500 for the escapade.
Sunday, July 4, 1982:Following a ten-month interagency review, President Reagan issued a decision directive stating that expansion of U.S. private sector involvement in civil space activities was a national goal. As the government phased out certain expendable launch vehicles (ELVs), private interest in commercial operation of these systems was rising. On November 16, 1983, the President chose DOT as the lead organization for ELV commercialization. On February 24, 1984, Executive Order 12465 formally designated DOT as the lead agency for encouraging, facilitating, and licensing commercial ELV activities. DOT entrusted these duties to a new Office of Commercial Space Transportation that it had begun to organize during 1983 (see August 7, 1995). Congress affirmed and expanded these actions through the Commercial Space Launch Act, enacted on October 30, 1984. This legislation made DOT responsible for enumerated activities to encourage and regulate U.S. commercial space launches.
Friday, July 9, 1982:A Pan American 727 crashed shortly after takeoff from New Orleans International Airport, killing all 145 aboard and 8 persons on the ground. The National Transportation Safety Board listed the accident’s probable cause as the airplane’s encounter with microburst-induced wind shear, which imposed a downdraft and a decreasing headwind. As a contributory factor, the Board listed the limited ability of the current Low Level Wind Shear Alert System (LLWAS) to provide definitive guidance for controllers and pilots in avoiding the hazard (see September 1978). Although the pilot was aware that LLWAS alerts were occurring periodically around the airport, the system did not detect the wind shear that affected the Pan Am flight until after takeoff began. Concerned over the accident, Congress in December 1982 passed legislation requiring FAA to contract with the National Academy of Sciences for a study of the wind shear hazard. The resulting report, completed by the Academy’s National Research Council in September 1983, urged that FAA establish an integrated wind shear program to address all aspects of the problem. The report’s recommendations included the improvement and wider use of LLWAS, which it considered the only detection system available in the near term for operational use. In October 1983, FAA announced that it had ordered another 51 of the systems. (See August 2, 1985.)
Friday, July 9, 1982: In City of Houston v. Federal Aviation Administration, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that the perimeter rule prohibiting air carriers from operating nonstop flights to and from Washington National beyond a 1,000-mile radius was neither arbitrary nor capricious and, therefore, a valid exercise of power. (See April 24, 1966, December 6, 1981, and October 30, 1986).
Thursday, July 29, 1982:FAA certificated the Bell 222B, the first transport category helicopter certificated for single-pilot instrument flight rules (IFR) operation without stabilization equipment.
Tuesday, August 3, 1982:FAA commissioned the first of a new generation of very high frequency omnidirectional radio range (VOR) navigational aids at the North Philadelphia, Pa., Airport. The new installation was the first in FAA’s program to replace VORs using vacuum tubes with more reliable solid-state equipment. (See March 17, 1982.)
Monday, August 23, 1982:United Parcel Service began “Next Day Air” package delivery between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The service was extended to 24 metropolitan areas during the following month, and by June 1985 it covered all the states except Alaska. UPS air freight had traveled primarily in the cargo holds of passenger aircraft through 1980, but thereafter the company relied increasingly on its growing fleet of cargo aircraft.
Monday, August 30, 1982:FAA established an Advanced Automation Program Office, which reported directly to the Administrator. The office had responsibility for the Advanced Automation Program, that element of National Airspace System modernization concerned with developing a replacement for NAS En Route Stage A and ARTS air traffic control systems. (See January 28, 1982 and July 25, 1983.)
Thursday, September 2, 1982:FAA published a rule covering two types of recreational equipment that had emerged during the 1970s: unpowered hang gliders (see May 29, 1974), and powered airplanes of extremely light weight. For regulatory purposes, FAA defined machines of both these types as “ultralight vehicles” rather than aircraft; therefore, they were not subject to the agency’s requirements on registration, airworthiness certification, and pilot licensing. To qualify for the new category, a hang glider must weigh less than 155 lbs., and a powered vehicle less than 254 lbs. In addition, a powered ultralight must not exceed: a fuel capacity of 5 gal.; a top speed of 55 knots; and a power-off stall speed of 24 knots. The agency limited both powered and unpowered ultralights to a single occupant.
The new regulation subjected ultralights to certain operating restrictions, including right-of-way and minimum visibility requirements. Ultralight operators were responsible for maintaining separation from other aircraft on a “see and avoid” basis. FAA banned flights over congested areas, and permitted operations in certain controlled airspace only with the prior approval of the appropriate air traffic control facility. The new rule also authorized on-the-spot safety inspections by FAA personnel. The question of whether ultralights required further regulation remained controversial. During 1984, Congress heard testimony on the subject, and FAA held a series of meetings to obtain public comment. On February 5, 1985, the National Transportation Safety Board urged stronger safety regulation, citing its investigation of 88 fatal ultralight accidents that occurred between March 1983 and September 1984. FAA subsequently drafted a rulemaking proposal on the registration and marking of powered ultralights, as well as the licensing of their pilots. The proposal was not published, however, because of objections by the Office of Management and Budget.
Friday, September 3, 1982:President Reagan signed the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (P.L. 97-248), general tax legislation that increased aviation user taxes. The act: raised the airline passenger ticket tax from 5 to 8 percent; increased the general aviation gasoline tax from 4 to 12 cents per gallon; levied a jet fuel tax of 14 cents per gallon; and re-imposed the 5 percent air cargo tax and the $3 international departure fee. These taxes were earmarked as renewed funding for the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which had received no tax revenues since September 30, 1980 (see that date). Title V of the tax bill, designated the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982, reestablished FAA’s airport grants program for development and noise compatibility projects. Formerly known as the Airport Development Aid Program (ADAP), this function had been inactive since the end of fiscal 1981 (see entry for August 13, 1981). It was now renamed the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), and authorized to draw on the Trust Fund in the following amounts: $450 million for fiscal 1982; $600 million, 1983; $793.5 million, 1984; $912 million, 1985; $1.017 billion, 1986; and $1.017 billion, 1987. Unused authorizations could be carried over to succeeding years. (An additional $475 million was authorized for airport projects in 1983-85 as part of P.L. 97-429, the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982.) The Airport and Airway Improvement Act stipulated formulas for apportioning airport development funds between primary, commuter, reliever, and general aviation airports, including a guarantee that reliever airports receive at least 10 percent of available funds. For the first time, privately owned airports in the reliever and commercial categories became eligible to receive grants. Other provisions of the law specified that not less than 1 percent of available funds be set aside for airports system planning grants, and directed FAA to publish a national plan of integrated airport systems (see August 2, 1985). The Airport and Airway Improvement Act also authorized FAA to use a total of 6.327 billion from the Trust Fund for airway facilities and equipment over the six years beginning with fiscal 1982. This funding helped to finance the planned modernization of the National Airspace System (see January 28, 1982). In addition, $1.169 billion from the Trust Fund was authorized for the agency’s research, engineering, and development activities during the same six years. The law also significantly increased the amount that FAA could draw from the Trust Fund for operations and maintenance. It authorized $800 million in 1982, and established formulas for the succeeding five years based on the level of funds made available for airport development. (See December 30, 1987.)
Wednesday, September 8, 1982:FAA re-titled the Associate Administrator for Policy and International Aviation Affairs the Associate Administrator for Policy and International Aviation. The agency also re-titled the Office of International Aviation Affairs as the Office of International Aviation.
Monday, September 20, 1982:FAA published a proposal to implement “Regulation by Objective” (RBO) in regulating airlines. Under this concept, “how to do it” regulations would be replaced by broadly stated objectives, and the airlines would be allowed the flexibility to meet these objectives in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible. FAA would pass judgment on new methods of compliance, however, and the agency would use a computer system to track the requirements that applied to each airline. A single Federal Aviation Regulation Part 120 would replace two existing operating regulations, Part 121 for operators of large aircraft and Part 135 for commuter and air taxi operators. Response to the proposal included many negative comments on RBO’s practicality, cost, and consistency with FAA’s mandate. The agency withdrew the proposal on June 16, 1983, stating that to pursue the concept would be less productive than to proceed with a review of Parts 121 and 135.
Wednesday, September 15, 1982:Glen A. Gilbert died at age 69. An important pioneer in the conceptual development of air traffic control, Gilbert was manager of the airlines’ Chicago air traffic control center at the time that it came under the control of the Commerce Department (see July 6, 1936). He subsequently became Chief of the Airway Traffic Control Section and later held other Federal aviation positions before joining the staff of the International Civil Aviation Organization in 1951. Gilbert worked as an aviation consultant from 1957 until his death. He also authored several books on air traffic control.
Thursday, September 30, 1982:H. Ross Perot, Jr., and Jay Coburn landed their Bell 206L-1 LongRanger II in Dallas, Tex., after completing the first helicopter flight around the world in 29 days, 3 hours, 8 minutes. On August 5, 1982, meanwhile, Dick Smith had departed from Fort Worth, Tex. in a Bell 206B JetRanger III on the first solo helicopter flight around the world. Smith, an Australian businessman, completed his unhurried trip on July 22, 1983.
Tuesday, October 26, 1982:FAA announced a contract with Burroughs Corp. to equip the agency’s district safety offices with a computerized information processing system that would allow safety inspectors to spend more of their time on field work rather than on preparing and analyzing reports. This Work Program Management Subsystem (WPMS) was implemented during 1983. WPMS was part of an Aviation Safety Analysis System (ASAS) being developed to apply computer technology to the support of a variety of FAA tasks and decisions. ASAS continued to grow in scope and complexity during succeeding years.
Friday, October 29, 1982:Changes in the FAA headquarters organization became officially effective. The position of Associate Administrator for Air Traffic and Airway Facilities was abolished, and the Air Traffic Service now reported directly to the FAA Administrator. (The title of this service’s Director was later changed to Associate Administrator for Air Traffic, effective December 25, 1983.) The Airway Facilities Service was abolished, as were the Associate Administrator for Engineering and Development position and its subordinate services, the Systems Research and Development Service and Office of Systems Engineering Management. The abolished elements were replaced by an organization under a new Associate Administrator for Development and Logistics. Reporting to this Associate Administrator were a new Systems Engineering Service, headed by the former director of the abolished Airway Facilities Service, and a new Program Engineering and Maintenance Service. The Logistics Service was re-titled the Acquisition and Materiel Service and remained under the Associate Administrator for Administration.
Friday, November 5, 1982:FAA announced that it would accept applications for air traffic controller positions from certain categories of specially qualified persons from 31 to 35 years old. Previously, all controller applicants had to be less than 31 years old at the time of appointment. The change would apply during the November 8-30 application period, and any future application periods before the end of 1984.
November 1982:FAA commissioned its first Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) building at Denver. Although the agency planned to link groups of AFSS sites into “family” units linked by an automated central data processing system, the Denver facility and other early AFSS buildings were commissioned individually without the new equipment. The Denver site was FAA-owned and not part of the lease program begun on May 28, 1981 (see that date). The first AFSS building commissioned under the lease program took place at Bridgeport, Conn., on March 3, 1984. (See October 2, 1981, and February 12, 1986.)
Tuesday, December 7, 1982:FAA announced the creation of a Rotorcraft Program Office to oversee the agency’s activities affecting helicopters. The agency formally established the new office, which reported directly to the Associate Administrator for Aviation Standards, on April 28, 1983. (See October 31, 1986.)
Tuesday, December 28, 1982:Secretary of Transportation Drew Lewis announced his resignation, effective February 1, 1983. Lewis, who stated that he had originally planned to remain as Secretary only two years before returning to private life, became chief executive of a cable television company.
Tuesday, December 28, 1982:Witnesses reported that a 737 flew dangerously close to a tall building in Rosslyn, Va., as it approached Washington National Airport. On March 24, 1983, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that the aircraft had flown nearer the building than normally should occur, and that low-flying aircraft were not unusual in the locality. NTSB recommended that FAA change the approach path and take certain other actions. FAA rejected these recommendations, but on November 21, 1983, NTSB asked the agency to reconsider. On December 21, FAA responded that it would institute a new instrument approach course farther from Rosslyn, upgrade electronic equipment on the approach already in use, and place an additional limit on how low pilots using a third approach course could descend before sighting the airport. FAA also tested new lead-in lights and later installed them on Potomac River bridges. (See March 8, 1984.)
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.