FAA History: 1983

Tuesday, January 4, 1983:Effective this date, FAA increased the minimum qualifications for air traffic controllers who provide on-the-job training (OJT). As before, FAA required such controllers to be certificated on the position for which they served as an OJT instructor. In addition, they were now required to have operated in the position for a minimum of 30 solo hours after certification, and to have received certification as an OJT instructor based on a supervisor’s observation of actual performance at the position.
Wednesday, January 26, 1983:FAA announced that a year-long demonstration of the Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) would begin at selected airports later in the year. The demonstration was a step toward FAA’s goal of developing an unmanned weather station that would employ standard weather sensors working in tandem with data processing equipment to produce weather observations for dissemination to pilots, controllers, and other users. The agency had begun testing a prototype in 1978, and awarded contracts for demonstration systems in 1982. The airport demonstration program was completed in 1984. On April 11, 1986, FAA issued an advisory circular containing standards for AWOS systems for non-Federal acquisition. The agency also planned to acquire AWOS systems for Federal use. (See February 28, 1989.)
Monday, January 31, 1983:FAA published new airworthiness standards for the certification of newly designed helicopters, effective March 2. One important provision required helicopters carrying ten or more passengers to be multi-engine aircraft capable of continued safe flight if one engine failed during climb, cruise, or descent. For helicopters carrying less than ten passengers, the new standards permitted greater flexibility of use. This was achieved by relaxing “height velocity” provisions that had required, in effect, that these aircraft maintain enough altitude and airspeed to allow them to land safely by auto-rotating (the helicopter equivalent of gliding). Other changes dealt with certification for instrument flight rule operations and for flight in icing conditions. The new standards resulted from FAA’s continuing Rotorcraft Regulatory Review Program, begun with a January 5, 1979 invitation for proposals, which were subsequently considered at a series of public conferences.
Monday, February 7, 1983:Elizabeth Hanford Dole became Secretary of Transportation. Dole had directed the President’s Committee for Consumer Interests under the Johnson Administration. She remained at that post after Nixon succeeded Johnson in 1969, then moved to other posts, including a seat on the Federal Trade Commission. Originally a Democrat, she registered as an independent on taking the FTC post in 1973, and became a Republican about the time of her marriage to Senator Robert Dole (R-Kan.) in December 1975. She resigned from the FTC in March 1979 to campaign for her husband in his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination, then participated in the Reagan campaign. In 1981, she became Assistant to the President for Public Liaison, and remained in that position until accepting the cabinet post. (See October 1, 1987.)
Tuesday, March 22, 1983:In congressional testimony, Administrator Helms outlined a new approach to facility consolidation which was to be reflected in a revised National Airspace System (NAS) Plan published the following month. The original plan had called for a reduction in the number of Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs) in the continental U.S. from 20 to 16. It had also envisioned the consolidation of the 188 existing TRACON (terminal radar approach control) and TRACAB (terminal radar approach control in the tower cab) facilities. These 188 facilities were to have been consolidated into about 30 regional or hub TRACONs. In the revised plan, all 20 ARTCCs would be retained, re-designated Area Control Facilities (ACFs), and given the added responsibility of providing terminal radar services for virtually the entire nation (see April 19, 1993). Individual airport towers would continue to direct takeoffs and landings, but TRACONs and TRACABs would be consolidated into the ACFs. The existing ARTCC sites would be augmented as necessary to perform their new responsibilities as ACFs. Three additional ACFs (one in Alaska, one in Hawaii, and one in the continental U.S.) would bring the total number of these sites to 23. Evolution of the ACF concept was dependent upon the development and acquisition of such air traffic control technology as the advanced automation system (see July 26, 1985) and the voice switching and control system (October 21, 1986).
Monday, March 28, 1983:The U.S. launched a weather satellite carrying Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking (SARSAT) as part of its equipment, making it the first American satellite capable of receiving Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) signals. SARSAT was developed as a joint project of the U.S., Canada, and France. In parallel with this effort, the U.S.S.R. developed a compatible capability, called COSPAS, incorporated in satellites that they launched in June 1982 and the spring of 1983. The U.S. placed a second satellite with SARSAT capability in orbit in December 1984, providing an optimum system to minimize alerting time from the occurrence of an accident. The ELT signals relayed via satellite to the ground allowed the approximate position of the ELT to be determined. Additional satellites with COSPAS/SARSAT were periodically launched to ensure adequate system capability. In 1984, the sponsors of COSPAS and SARSAT signed the first agreement on maintaining the system beyond the 1980s.
Sunday, May 1, 1983:A hijacker succeeded in reaching Havana by locking himself in a lavatory during an airline flight and issuing notes threatening to blow up the aircraft. The incident began a renewed upsurge of hijackings to Cuba, many perpetuated by Mariel boat lift refugees (see July 22, 1980). By September 22, hijackers had diverted 10 additional airliners to Cuba, prompting FAA to increase security measures at airports in selected areas. Hijackings to Cuba began to decline in the last quarter of 1983, although three such diversions took place in 1984. No hijackers succeeded in reaching Cuba from the U.S. during 1985 or 1986.
Thursday, May 5, 1983:All three engines of an Eastern Air Lines L-1011 failed over the Atlantic, but the pilot restarted one engine and landed safely at Miami. The cause of the incident was oil loss due to mechanics’ failure to install O-ring seals.
Monday, May 23, 1983:The first aircraft to navigate across the Atlantic entirely by use of the Global Positioning System (GPS) landed at Paris. The Rockwell International Saberliner had made en route stopovers due to the lack of continuous satellite coverage by the experimental system, which the Defense Department had been developing since the 1970s. In the April 1984 edition of the National Airspace System (NAS) Plan, FAA noted that GPS would serve as a future supplemental navigation system for civil aviation, in addition to its primary military role. The Plan therefore included FAA deployment of GPS signal monitors. (See April 1, 1991.)
Thursday, June 2, 1983:An in-flight fire aboard an Air Canada DC-9 filled the cabin with smoke and prompted an emergency landing at Greater Cincinnati airport in Covington, Ky. A flash fire enveloped the aircraft interior about 60 to 90 seconds after the exits were opened, killing 23 of the 46 persons aboard. The National Transportation Safety Board was unable to determine the cause of the fire, which originated in the aft lavatory. The Board concluded that an underestimate of the seriousness of the fire and misleading reports of its progress delayed the captain’s decision to land and contributed to the accident’s severity. (See March 29, 1985.)
June 8-14, 1983:A Joint System Program Office (JSPO) representing the National Weather Service, FAA, and the Air Force awarded two competitive contracts to develop pre-production models of the Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD). The contracts would remain in effect until July 1986, after which one of the firms would be selected for production. NEXRAD would have the ability to “see” inside storms and measure the velocity and direction of wind-driven precipitation and other particles suspended in the air. The system was based on the Doppler effect, which permits an object’s speed and direction to be determined by the lengths or frequency of the light, sound, or radio waves it emits.
The U.S. government had been investigating the potential of Doppler radar since the 1950s. In April 1977, joint NEXRAD testing was begun by the Air Force and the Commerce Department’s National Weather Service. FAA formally joined the program in December 1977, due to the tests’ success and perhaps also the crash of a DC-9 in a thunderstorm (see April 4, 1977). In August 1979, the Departments of Commerce, Transportation, and Defense formed a Joint System Program Office with the goal of developing a national network of NEXRAD radars and processing equipment. The Commerce Department, which planned to buy and operate most of the radars, was given the lead role (see February 28, 1994).
Initially, NEXRAD had been intended to cover both en route and airport needs, but Project JAWS (see May 15-August 13, 1982) produced data on wind shear microbursts that prompted FAA to conclude that separate airport systems would be needed. To learn more about how Doppler radar could by applied to the low-level wind shear hazard, FAA conducted Project CLAWS (for classify, locate, and avoid wind shear) in the Denver area from July 7 to August 13, 1984. FAA contracted with the National Center for Atmospheric Research to provide daily microburst forecasts, Doppler radar surveillance, and real-time advisories of microburst activities. During CLAWS, pilots gave detailed feedback on the effectiveness of the system. On September 16, 1985, FAA signed an agreement with the Commerce Department under which FAA would contract with the Sperry and Raytheon corporations to identify how NEXRAD systems would need to be modified to develop terminal Doppler radar. (See August 2, 1985.)
June 1983:The first Integrated Communications Switching System (ICSS) became operational at Houma, La. ICSS, a flexible voice communications control and switching system, included three versions: Type I (like the Houma system), for small air traffic control towers and terminal radar approach control facilities (TRACONs); Type II, for larger towers and TRACONs; and Type III, for Automated Flight Service Stations. By the end of fiscal 1986, FAA had installed 86 Type I, 15 Type II, and 30 Type III systems.
Thursday, July 7, 1983:The Office of Personnel Management gave FAA final approval to proceed with its Airway Science Curriculum program on a five-year demonstration basis, effective after a 90-day congressional review period ending on October 10, 1983. FAA had first submitted a proposal for such a project in 1978. In early 1981, Administrator Helms began discussions with selected colleges to explore the possibility of their offering courses to help provide the agency with better-trained candidates for certain occupations. In 1982, he wrote to a list of colleges and universities asking them to consider such courses, and many of the schools expressed interest. The program established a curriculum, leading to a bachelor’s degree, that provided a broad foundation in mathematics, science, and management topics, as well as in aviation. Major areas of specialization included aviation management, computer science, aircraft operations and flight technology, and the installation and operation of aviation facilities. Institutions recognized as offering such a curriculum became eligible to apply for airway science grants.
Wednesday, July 13, 1983:FAA announced that its program to improve aircraft braking and direction control on wet runways through grooving the runway surface and other techniques had resulted in the upgrading of nearly 500 runways at 360 airports in the last six years. (See April 23, 1967.)
Monday, July 25, 1983:FAA placed the Advanced Automation Program Office under the executive direction of the Associate Administrator for Development and Logistics. (See August 30, 1982.)
July 1983:After testing in the areas of the Jacksonville and Miami Air Route Traffic Control Centers, FAA adopted the Hazardous Inflight Weather Advisory Service (HIWAS) for national implementation. HIWAS was designed to provide continuous broadcast of information on dangerous weather. FAA first implemented the system in the area where it had been tested, and in September 1985 expanded it to the Houston center’s airspace. By September 1989, the agency had completed nationwide delivery of sufficient HIWAS equipment to provide coverage at or above 4,000 feet.
Wednesday, August 24, 1983:In United States v. The County of Westchester, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York struck down an all-night curfew instituted by Westchester County at its airport. Citing the Concorde case (see October 17, 1977), the court said that local airport proprietors were “vested only with the power to promulgate reasonable, non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory regulations that establish acceptable noise levels.” In instituting its curfew, however, Westchester County had failed to conduct any study to determine the location of noise-impacted areas or to quantify the level of noise from any source. Moreover, the curfew banned all flights at the Westchester County Airport between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m.–regardless of the degree of noise produced by individual aircraft. As a result, in the opinion of the Court, the curfew did not pass the test of reasonableness and was an “over-broad exercise of power.” (See November 5, 1990.)
Wednesday, August 31, 1983:An American Airlines DC-9 Super 80 became the first scheduled jet airliner to arrive after 10:00 p.m. at Washington National Airport since the imposition of nightime noise limits (see December 6, 1981). The Super 80 landed without violating the limit of 85 decibels.
Thursday, September 1, 1983:A Soviet interceptor shot down Korean Air Lines flight 007, a 747 that penetrated the Soviet Union’s airspace during a flight bound for Japan from Alaska. All 269 persons aboard, including Rep. Larry P. McDonald (D-Ga.) and 60 other Americans, were killed. An International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) report issued in June 1993 concluded: that the Korean crew unknowingly flew into Soviet airspace because they improperly operated their navigation equipment; and that the Soviets assumed that the 747 was an intelligence aircraft and did not make exhaustive efforts to identify it.
On March 6, 1984, the governing council of ICAO condemned the destruction of KAL 007, and on May 10 the ICAO assembly amended the Convention on International Civil Aviation to ban the use of weapons against civil aircraft. The KAL tragedy also led to negotiations between the U.S., U.S.S.R., and Japan aimed at enhancing the safety of civil aircraft on Northern Pacific routes. The three nations signed a Memorandum of Understanding on July 29, 1985, followed by an implementing agreement on November 19 of that year. In addition to procedures for correcting the course of straying aircraft and for emergency landings in Soviet territory, the agreement included improved communications between air traffic controllers. The new communications link became operational on August 15, 1986, providing a dedicated voice circuit between air traffic control centers in Tokyo and Khabarovsk, U.S.S.R. American controllers at Anchorage could also communicate with Khabarovsk by patching through the Tokyo center.
Thursday, September 22, 1983:FAA announced the award of two competitive contracts for design of a new mainframe computers to replace the IBM 9020 computers at Air Route Traffic Control Centers as part of the agency’s Advanced Automation Program. (See January 28, 1982 and July 26, 1985.)
Saturday, September 24, 1983:Continental Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 and suspended flights. Frank Lorenzo (chairman of the airline and its parent company, Texas Air) announced on September 26 that a “new Continental” was resuming operations, on a discount-fare basis, to about a third of the cities formerly served. He offered to rehire 4,200 of the firm’s 12,000 employees at salaries below those paid under their union contracts. Continental’s pilots and flight attendants began a strike on October 1, but failed to shut down the airline. By the end of 1983, the company employed approximately 700 pilots and 800 flight attendants. (See February 6, 1984.)
Friday, September 30, 1983:FAA awarded a contract for a new generation of solid-state Airport Surveillance Radars, designated ASR-9, to replace vacuum-tube radars in use at U.S. airports. (See June 1975 and May 2, 1989.)
Friday, September 30, 1983:During the fiscal year that ended on this date, key equipment was installed for the National Airspace Data Exchange Network (NADIN), a new inter-facility communication system being established under a contract awarded in 1980. Under the NADIN system, messages originating at an air traffic control facility would go to the nearest of some 20 regional concentrators (computerized communication equipment sites). The message would then go to one of two major switching centers, located at Atlanta and Salt Lake City. These switches would disseminate the data, bypassing failed or saturated areas when required. Each switch would handle messages for half the country, but would possess the ability to manage the entire system if necessary. During FY 1982, the first of the switches was installed at Salt Lake City, and the first of the concentrators was installed at the FAA Technical Center. The Atlanta switch and the remaining 20 concentrators were installed in FY 1983, moving NADIN closer to commissioning. (See May 5, 1989.)
Friday, October 7, 1983:A Wall Street Journal article accused FAA Administrator Helms and his associate, Vincent Roggio, of questionable practices in their private business dealings during the past 8 years. The article proved the beginning of highly publicized difficulties for Helms, who in March 1984 filed a damage suit against Roggio and other business associates, then petitioned for bankruptcy. In 1987, Roggio received a prison sentence for fraud. (See December 23, 1983.)
Tuesday, October 11, 1983:An Air Illinois commuter flight crashed near Pinckneyville, Ill., killing all ten persons aboard. The National Transportation Safety Board later reported that the accident was caused by the pilot’s decision to continue the flight after loss of electrical power from both generators of his Hawker-Sidley 748. As contributory factors, the Safety Board cited inadequate aircrew training and FAA failure to prevent this inadequacy. Following the crash, FAA made changes designed to improve in its inspection procedures and inspector training.
On December 2, 1983, FAA announced a special surveillance of Air Illinois, and grounded the airline’s two largest aircraft on December 14. The next day, Air Illinois voluntarily ceased operations. FAA enforcement activity subsequently resulted in a series of other groundings of commuter and charter air carriers, some as a result of the National Air Transportation Inspection (see March 4, 1984).
Monday, October 24, 1983:FAA began testing a “scatter plan” aimed at more equitable distribution of noise from operations at Washington National Airport. Implemented at the request of the Metropolitan Council of Governments, the plan resulted in a high level of complaints from areas that had previously experienced little noise. Even after the test’s end on January 7, 1984, some citizens claimed that the flights had not returned to their normal routes along the Potomac River.
Thursday, December 22, 1983:FAA established the first Airport Radar Service Area (ARSA) at Austin, Tex., followed on January 19, 1984, by the second at Columbus, Ohio. A recommendation of the National Airspace Review (see June 7, 1982), the ARSA concept was developed for airports with insufficient traffic to warrant a Terminal Control Area (TCA). Within ARSAs, air traffic control provided: separation between IFR aircraft; traffic advisories and conflict resolution for IFR and VFR traffic so that targets do not merge at the same altitude; and traffic advisory service to all participating aircraft as well as arrival sequencing at the primary airport. ARSAs were intended to replace Terminal Radar Service Areas (TRSAs) nationwide, and differed from TRSAs in that their shape was standardized to the maximum extent possible. Radio contact with air traffic control was mandatory for all aircraft in an ARSA, whereas participation was voluntary in a TRSA. Controllers were required to provide traffic advisories to all pilots in an ARSA. In a TRSA, by contrast, controllers provided traffic advisories concerning non-participating VFR aircraft on a workload-permitting basis. After validating the ARSA concept at Austin and Columbus, FAA began establishing additional ARSAs in 1985. There were 121 ARSAs in operation in September 1993, when FAA began using its new airspace classifications (see December 17, 1991), at which point TRSAs and ARSAs were no longer separate airspace classifications.
Friday, December 23, 1983:In response to clean air standards adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency, FAA published revised rules on aircraft engine exhaust emissions. Beginning January 1, 1984, FAA extended smoke limitations already in effect for some classes of engines to cover all civil aircraft jet engines. As of the same date, the agency also required all commercial aircraft jet engines manufactured for use in the United States and rated at 6,000 lb. of thrust or more to meet new regulations on unburned carbons, a contributor to regional air pollution problems. (See July 6, 1973.)
Friday, December 23, 1983:Attempting to takeoff at Anchorage, a Korean Airlines cargo DC-10 collided on the ground with a Piper Navajo operated as a commuter by SouthCentral Air. Disoriented in heavy fog, the DC-10 captain had selected the wrong runway. The accident caused no fatalities, but seriously injured three persons and destroyed both aircraft. To Donald D. Engen, who headed the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation team, the collision illustrated the need for better surface control. Soon after becoming FAA Administrator (see April 10, 1984), Engen ordered that Airport Surface Detection Equipment (ASDE) being used for research at FAA’s Technical Center be transferred to Anchorage (see August 1979). In addition, he directed the agency to speed its procurement of the more advanced ASDE-3 system. On October 10, 1985, FAA announced a contract for 17 ASDE-3 units, with an option for 13 more. (See December 3, 1993.)
Friday, December 23, 1983:J. Lynn Helms resigned as FAA Administrator, effective January 31, 1984. Helms stated that his objectives as Administrator were largely accomplished and he wished to return to the private sector. Deputy Administrator Michael J. Fenello became Acting Administrator. (See April 10, 1984.)
Saturday, December 31, 1983:The General Aviation Reservation (GAR) system came to an end. FAA had imposed the GAR as part of the air traffic restrictions resulting from the air traffic controllers’ strike (see October 19, 1981). Initially, all general aviation pilots who wished to fly under Instrument Flight Rules had to obtain reservations. In June and July of 1982, FAA had lifted this requirement between airports within airspace controlled by the Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Albuquerque air route traffic control centers. Later, FAA grouped the centers into four geographic areas and allowed pilots to fly without reservation between airports in the same group. On October 1, 1983, the agency permitted unrestricted flights between the two western groups, and on October 31 the southeastern group was included with the western groups. During the final two months of 1983, the reservation system remained in effect only for pilots who wished to enter the northeastern group, which included the New York, Boston, Minneapolis, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Cleveland centers.
Saturday, December 31, 1983:Operational use of an IBM 4341 computer began at the Central Flow Control facility at FAA’s Washington headquarters. Physically located at the agency’s Technical Center in Atlantic City, N.J., the new computer was connected by landline to terminals used by Central Flow personnel at headquarters. The IBM 4341 had 14 times more memory and was 70 percent faster than the IBM 9020A that it replaced. In addition, it allowed two-way data communication between the Flow Control facility and en route control centers (previously, this type of communication had been one-way from the en route centers). The computer was used to monitor the number of aircraft in flight, as well as their destinations and times of arrival, as part of Central Flow’s mission of keeping air traffic running smoothly. (See April 27, 1970, and May 17, 1987.)
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.