FAA History: 1985

Friday, January 11, 1985:Ralph Nader’s Aviation Consumer Action Project made public a study claiming that FAA had underreported near midair collisions (NMACs) for 1983 and 1984 (see October 18, 1984). FAA acknowledged that discrepancies existed and stated that procedural changes would ensure more accurate NMAC statistics in the future. On April 19, 1985, FAA released data showing a rise in NMACs for the first quarter of 1985. The agency stated that the increase reflected improved statistical procedures and renewed emphasis on pilot reporting of the incidents. In June, Georgetown University Dean Ronald L. Smith began an audit of the new NMAC reporting system. In findings announced by FAA on December 3, Dean Smith judged the system to be working well and found no evidence of earlier deliberate suppression of NMAC reports. Meanwhile, media attention to the NMAC issue heightened due to two such incidents in the national capital area on June 9 and September 24, 1985. In October 1985, NTSB Chairman James Burnett told Congress that the Board was very concerned about a trend toward increased NMACs. On April 14, 1986, FAA stated that reported NMACs for 1985 had totaled 777 (a figure later revised to 758), as compared to 589 for 1984. Commenting that the 1985 statistics were based on improved methods, FAA Administrator Engen pointed to the agency’s efforts to reduce NMACs, including the establishment of Airport Radar Service Areas (see December 22, 1983) and the “Back to Basics” program (see October 10, 1985). Engen also stated that special working groups were studying the problem of potential collisions on the ground, termed “runway incursions.” FAA later issued the following statistics: 840 NMAC reports in 1986; 1058 in 1987; 710 in 1988; 550 in 1989; 454 in 1990; 348 in 1991; 311 in 1992; and 293 in 1993.
Friday, February 8, 1985:FAA established a policy that the Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) would be the standard visual glideslope indicator for new, Federally-funded installations at fixed-wing airports. PAPI was an improved version of VASI, the Visual Approach Slope Indicator (see October 12, 1970). The PAPI system featured four bars of light and was able to give pilots an indication of the extent of their deviation from the desired glide path, rather than merely warning that they were too high or too low. In 1982, the International Civil Aviation Organization had adopted PAPI to replace VASI, which would cease to be the international standard on January 1, 1995. In May 1983, FAA had changed its longstanding policy of funding only VASI to one permitting funding of various different systems, with the exception that only PAPI was funded for international airports. The agency’s February 1985 shift to exclusive funding of PAPI reflected a desire to promote safety through standardization. In response to congressional action, however, FAA modified this policy to permit funding of systems other than PAPI at general aviation airports not certificated for air carrier use.
Tuesday, February 26, 1985:FAA published Advisory Circular 91-62 stating a new policy on child restraint systems (CRSs). The background of this issue included the formation of an FAA Task force to evaluate the use on aircraft of CRSs, also known as child safety seats. On June 1, 1979, the task force had recommended that the agency adopt the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for CRSs, with additional provisions for aircraft use. FAA developed performance standards which it published as a Technical Standard Order on May 28, 1982. Subsequently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and FAA had worked toward a common standard. Advisory Circular 91-62 declared that a CRS manufactured after February 25, 1985, was suitable for aviation if it bore a NHTSA label certifying it for use in both motor vehicles and aircraft. In addition, a CRS made between January 1, 1981, and February 25, 1985, was suitable for use in aircraft provided it bore a NHTSA label indicating that it met Federal motor vehicle standards. The new FAA policy made an additional 6 million child seats acceptable for use aloft. FAA encouraged but did not require use of the devices, and airlines could decide whether to permit them (see September 15, 1992). Children under the age of two might still be held in an adult’s lap during takeoff and landing.
Monday, March 18, 1985:FAA began an in-depth inspection of Continental Airlines that lasted through April 26. This was the second special inspection of Continental (see February 6, 1984) since the Air Line Pilots Association began a strike against it. On June 11, 1985, FAA announced that the airline continued to operate in basic accordance with safety regulations. In March 1986, however, Continental paid a $402,000 penalty for violations uncovered by FAA during its 1984 and 1985 inspections. Meanwhile, the flight attendants and mechanics ended their strike against Continental in April 1985, and a bankruptcy court resolved the pilots strike during that October by ordering a back-to-work plan. On June 30, 1986, the court approved a plan allowing Continental to end its bankruptcy within sixty days. (See September 24, 1983 and December 3, 1990.)
Tuesday, March 19, 1985:The appointment of Charles E. Weithoner as the first Associate Administrator for Human Resource Management became effective. Weithoner had served in the post on an acting basis since the previous October. On September 4, 1985, an FAA directive formally created the position and placed four offices under its control: Human Resource Planning and Evaluation; Labor and Employee Relations; Organizational Effectiveness; and Personnel and Technical Training. At the same time, FAA abolished the former Office of Labor Relations and Office of Personnel and Training, and assigned their functions to offices under the new Associate Administrator. This structural change was part of a program of increased emphasis upon human relations (see July 1984.)
Tuesday, March 26, 1985:A directive issued on this date established a new Office of Program and Regulations Management under the Associate Administrator for Aviation Standards. The office was later retitled the Office of Program and Resource Management, and subsequently abolished by a directive issued on April 24, 1992.
Friday, March 29, 1985:FAA published a rule to improve cabin fire protection for passengers aboard aircraft operated by major airlines under Federal Aviation Regulations Part 121. The rule required that each lavatory be equipped with a smoke detector, or equivalent, and that each lavatory trash receptacle be equipped with an automatic fire extinguisher. It also increased the number of hand fire extinguishers required in the cabins of aircraft with more than 60 seats, and specified that at least two of these use Halon 1211 or an equivalent extinguishing agent. The new rule resulted from investigation of two aircraft cabin fires and an inspection survey conducted in their wake. One of these fires involved an Air Canada flight (see June 2, 1983) and the other was a non-fatal blaze at Tampa on June 25, 1983. (See May 26, 1987, and April 4, 1991.)
Wednesday, April 17, 1985:FAA published a rule establishing a blood alcohol standard (.04 percent by weight) for determining when drinking had impaired the ability of aircrew members to perform their duties. The new regulation strengthened the existing rule prohibiting anyone from acting as an aircrew member within eight hours of alcohol consumption or while under the influence of alcohol or any drug adversely affecting performance (see December 5, 1970). A related rule published on January 9, 1986, made airmen subject to possible loss or suspension of their licenses if they refused to submit to tests for alcohol given by law enforcement officers under certain conditions. (See February 17, 1987, and March 8, 1990.)
Monday, April 29, 1985:Astronauts aboard the space shuttle Challenger placed the Northern Utah Satellite (NUSAT) in orbit. The 105 lb. aluminum polyhedron satellite was an experiment aimed at developing a new means of calibrating the vertical tilt of FAA beacon radar antennas. Before reentering the atmosphere on December 15, 1986, NUSAT transmitted important information on the radar signal environment as perceived from low earth orbit. The project was accomplished by a volunteer coalition of FAA, NASA, Utah’s Weber State College, and numerous aerospace companies.
Sunday, May 5, 1985:Administrator Engen and other FAA officials arrived in Beijing on a mission to foster closer cooperation between the U.S. and China in aviation matters. On August 28, 1985, Transportation Secretary Dole announced that the two countries were working together for a mutual exchange of information, research, and experts for further development of their transportation systems. The Secretary made the announcement in Beijing during a trip to China with her husband, Senator Robert Dole (R-Kan.). (See March 15, 1986)
Thursday, May 9, 1985:The first of four heliports selected in 1983 for development under FAA’s National Prototype Demonstration Instrument Flight Rules Heliport Program was dedicated in Indianapolis. A $2.5 million Airport Improvement Program grant had assisted the establishment of the facility.
Friday, May 17, 1985:United Airlines pilots went on strike over the company’s plan for a two-tiered pay structure with lower pay for new pilots. The union and management soon reached an economic agreement that permitted such a two-tier system, but back-to-work issues delayed settlement until June 14. During the strike, FAA increased safety surveillance of United operations, and used electronic equipment to help identify those harassing non-striking pilots with illegal radio transmissions on air traffic control frequencies.
Friday, May 31, 1985:FAA announced new criteria on extended range (ER) flights. Previously, FAA had generally prohibited a two-engine aircraft from flying a route that at any point was more than one hour flying time (in still air at normal cruising speed with one engine inoperative) from a usable airport. Under the new criteria, the diversion time was increased to two hours, provided that at least half of each extended-range route segment was less than 90 minutes of one-engine flying time from an airport. The change meant that some two-engine aircraft would be able to fly North Atlantic routes without veering far to the north. As experience with extended two-engine operations increased, FAA further increased permitted diversion times. In 1989, the agency approved a three-hour diversion time, long enough to permit two-engine operations between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland.
Monday, June 3, 1985:A directive issued on this date established the Airport Capacity Program Office under the Associate Administrator for Airports. (See February 21, 1990.)
Thursday, June 6, 1985:The Professional Airway Systems Specialists (PASS), the bargaining agent for Airway Facilities technicians, agreed with FAA on a joint labor-management employee involvement (E-I) pilot program. A steering committee composed of five FAA and five union representatives agreed upon an eighteen-month test of E-I, a concept involving cooperative efforts to solve operational problems affecting employees. The program was first implemented at facilities in Baltimore and New York, and subsequently expanded to all FAA regions. (See August 31, 1991.)
Friday, June 7, 1985:Effective this date, FAA reduced the total flight hours required for a pilot to be eligible to obtain an instrument rating from 200 to 125. A contract study had indicated that the change would have no effect on pilots’ ability to learn instrument flying skills, but would encourage them to acquire the rating earlier.
Friday, June 14, 1985:Two Lebanese Shiite Moslems hijacked a TWA 727 departing Athens and diverted it to Beirut, where additional hijackers joined them. During a two-week confrontation, they demanded the release of Shiite prisoners held by Israel. The hijackers murdered one passenger, a U.S. Navy diver. They released the other 155 hostages (including 39 Americans) in stages, the last being freed on June 30. Lebanese authorities held the aircraft in Beirut until August 16.
The TWA hijacking and an upsurge in Middle East terrorism prompted a series of U.S. actions. Events included:
  • On June 18, President Reagan warned travelers of inadequate security measures at Athens airport. This advisory was lifted on July 22, after an FAA inspection found improvements.
  • On June 23, an Air India jet crashed under mysterious circumstances (see entry for this date below).
  • On June 27, Transportation Secretary Dole urged the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to act immediately to enhance airport security. The ICAO Council met on an accelerated schedule, and on December 19 adopted amendments strengthening international security standards and recommended practices.
  • On July 1, the President suspended airline travel between U.S. and Lebanon.
  • During July, FAA issued an emergency regulatory amendment requiring airlines to carry Federal Air Marshals on certain flights. Eight days later, the agency issued another emergency rule that required airlines to expand security training for crew members and to provide a ground security coordinator and an in-flight security coordinator for every flight.
  • Between mid-August and early Nov, FAA personnel assisted by law enforcement officers from other agencies inspected U.S. air carrier security procedures at 79 foreign airports.
  • FAA also issued a number of emergency amendments to the agency-approved security programs of both airlines and airport operators.
  • On August 8, the President signed the International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1985. The Act authorized the use of $5 million from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund for research on and development of airport security devices and explosives detection techniques. It also mandated a system for conducting security assessments at foreign airports, and authorized Federal Air Marshals as a permanent FAA workforce. The agency began hiring additional security inspectors and training them to serve as Air Marshals. FAA also reorganized its Office of Civil Aviation Security to reflect its expanded responsibilities under the Act, creating an International Civil Aviation Security Division and an Intelligence Division. (See August 5, 1986.)
Sunday, June 23, 1985:An Air India 747 crashed into the North Atlantic during a flight from Montreal to London, killing all 329 persons aboard (see June 14, 1985). Circumstances made it appear that Sikh separatists might have been responsible for the tragedy and for a near-simultaneous bombing that killed two airport baggage handlers in Tokyo. Indian and Canadian government reports released the following year concluded that that the 747 was destroyed by a bomb in luggage in the forward cargo hold. In July 1992, Indian authorities arrested a Sikh extremist who was allegedly involved in the bombing.
Monday, July 1, 1985:A toll-free FAA Aviation Safety Hotline began operations. Coordinated by the Office of Aviation Safety, the hotline was intended primarily for those in the aviation industry with specific knowledge of Federal Aviation Regulations violations. Callers’ identities would be held in confidence and protected from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. During the following month, an FAA Consumer Hotline also opened, initially in one region only but expanding to nationwide operations on September 2, 1986. The Consumer Hotline was for use by the public to inquire or lodge complaints about aviation safety issues or FAA user services. The hotline did not handle airline service issues, such as lost luggage or flight cancellations. When such problems were not resolved by the airlines themselves, consumers were referred to DOT’s Office of Community and Consumer Affairs.
Thursday, July 18, 1985:FAA published a rule setting forth simplified flight and rest time requirements for domestic airline pilots, effective October 1, 1986. The new rule was intended to allow greater flexibility in scheduling while ensuring that pilots had adequate rest. For major airlines, the rule replaced a complex flight duty time regulation that had remained virtually unchanged for over 30 years. The new rule also covered air taxi and commuter air carrier pilots, who previously had only minimal restrictions on the number of hours they could fly. FAA drafted the rule with the aid of an advisory committee composed of representatives of the various groups interested in the outcome. The agency adopted this “Regulatory Negotiation” approach after several years of unsuccessful attempts to update and simplify flight duty time regulations.
Wednesday, July 24, 1985:FAA announced the award of a contract to upgrade the Automated Radar Terminal System (ARTS II), giving it certain additional safety features of the more sophisticated ARTS III. Based on development work begun in March 1982, this ARTS IIA enhanced system would include conflict alert and Minimum Safe Altitude Warning capabilities. In addition to upgrading the ARTS II systems in service at 87 locations, the contractor would install ARTS IIA’s at 33 airports where the outmoded TPX-42 system was in use. (See December 12, 1978.)
Friday, July 26, 1985:FAA announced the award of a contract for replacement of the IBM 9020 computers at the nation’s 20 air route traffic control centers (ARTCCs) as part of the agency’s Advanced Automation Program. IBM won the replacement contract in a competition with Sperry Corp. under a pair of contracts that had been announced on Sept 22, 1983. The new installations were designated the “Host” Computer Systems (HCSs) because of their ability to run the existing 9020 software package with minimum modifications. Using the IBM 3083-BX1 computer as its key element, the Host system would provide greater speed, reliability, and storage capacity. Each installation would consist of two units, one serving as the primary processor and the other providing support and backup. (See March 22, 1983, and May 29, 1987.) In addition to installing the Host systems at the ARTCCs, IBM agreed to supply the systems to teams working on the other major element of the Advanced Automation Program, the Advanced Automation System (AAS). Under a pair of contracts announced on August 16, 1984, IBM and Hughes Aircraft Co. were engaged in a competition to produce the best AAS design (see July 26, 1988). Among the key elements of AAS were controller work stations, called “sector suites,” that would incorporate new display, communications and processing capabilities. AAS would also include new computer hardware and software to bring the air traffic control system to higher levels of automation. Once the full AAS system was operational, FAA planned to begin the integration of en route and terminal radar control services at the ARTCCs, which would be renamed Area Control Facilities (ACFs) and expanded to handle the new functions (see April 19, 1993). Among the planned future enhancements to AAS was Automated En Route Air Traffic Control (AERA), which would automatically examine aircraft flight plans to detect and resolve potential conflicts.
Friday, August 2, 1985:A Delta Air Lines L-1011 crashed when it encountered wind shear during a landing approach to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The accident killed 134 of the 163 persons aboard and one person on the ground. The wind shear did not reach the sensors of the Low Level Wind Shear Alert System (LLWAS) until after the crash, a fact that demonstrated the system’s limitations. The National Transportation Safety Board listed the accident’s probable cause as: the flightcrew’s decision to approach through a cumulonimbus cloud which they observed to contain lightning; lack of specific guidelines, procedures, and training for avoiding and escaping wind shear; and lack of real-time, definitive wind shear information. The report noted that low-altitude wind shear had been a cause or contributory factor in seven fatal air transport crashes since 1970. On November 27, 1985, FAA announced the award of a contract for development of a comprehensive wind shear training program for pilots. The agency received the completed program in February 1987 and distributed it to the industry. On April 14, 1986, FAA circulated a draft Integrated Wind Shear Program plan. In addition to better pilot training, the plan featured development of: improved ground-based detectors, including: enhanced LLWAS (see January 1988); Next-Generation Weather Radar, known as NEXRAD (see February 28, 1994); Terminal Doppler Weather Radar, known as TDWR (see November 2, 1988); and sensors for airborne detection systems using microwave Doppler, laser, or infrared radiometer technology (see October 9, 1986).
Friday, August 2, 1985:FAA submitted the first National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) to Congress. A successor to the National Airport System Plan (see September 7, 1973), the NPIAS was to be published in an updated form every two years as mandated by the Airport and Airway Improvement Act (see September 3, 1982). The first NPIAS estimated that Federal, state, and local agencies needed to invest $18.3 billion in airport development over the next decade in order to keep pace with the projected growth of air traffic.
Monday, August 12, 1985:A Japan Air Lines 747 crashed into a mountain about 70 miles northwest of Tokyo after wandering out of control for more than 30 minutes. All but 4 of the 524 persons aboard were killed, a fatality toll higher than in any previous single-plane accident. Japanese authorities listed the probable cause as rupture of the aft pressure bulkhead, and the subsequent ruptures of part of the fuselage tail, vertical fin, and hydraulic control system. They attributed the bulkhead rupture to fatigue cracks caused by improper repairs. To avert such accidents in the future, FAA ordered that a cover plate be placed over an access door in the tail section of 747s to control damage in the event of an aft pressure bulkhead failure.
Friday, August 16, 1985:Transportation Secretary Dole released a report on FAA’s Flight Standards programs by the Safety Review Task Force that she had created in December 1983 to examine the safety programs of all the Department’s modal administrations. The report identified four problem areas: difficulty in carrying out timely actions; lack of uniformity in interpreting rules and policies; sometimes ineffective communications within FAA and with the aviation community and general public; and expanded autonomy at FAA regional offices and some headquarters offices that had inhibited the accomplishment of program objectives. (See February 20, 1986.)
Friday, August 16, 1985:FAA announced that it would implement a new policy on drug and alcohol abuse involving agency employees in safety-related positions. The agency’s pilots, safety inspectors, air traffic controllers, police officers, and firefighters would be given urinalysis tests upon hiring and thereafter during their annual physical examinations. Penalties for using illicit drugs or alcohol abuse either on or off duty ranged from dismissal to reassignment. Employees who completed a treatment program might return to their original positions, but would be subject to random screening. A second offense would result in firing. The testing procedures became effective in February 1987. (See September 22, 1984, and September 9, 1987.)
Tuesday, August 20, 1985:Trans World Airlines’ board of directors accepted a stock purchase offer from “corporate raider” Carl C. Icahn, leading to Icahn’s takeover of TWA before the end of 1985.
Thursday, August 22, 1985:One engine of a British Airtours charter 737 exploded on takeoff at Manchester, U.K., engulfing the aircraft in flame and killing 54 of the 137 persons aboard. Both British authorities and FAA ordered inspections of certain Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines used on some 727s, 737s, and DC-9s. On September 6, a Midwest Express DC-9 rolled out of control and crashed after one engine failed on takeoff from Milwaukee. All 31 persons aboard died. The accident’s probable cause, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, was the flight crew’s improper response to the loss of the engine, an older version of the JT8D than that involved at Manchester. Following the accident, FAA broadened its order on engine inspections to include more models of the JT8D, and in December began a special inspection of engine repair facilities (see December 12, 1985). Subsequently, FAA issued further directives on JT8D inspections and parts replacement.
Monday, September 16, 1985:FAA dedicated the last of 800 contractor-installed solid-state VORTAC air navigation aids. VORTAC had long been an important element of the airspace system (see August 30, 1956). The new solid-state VORTACs were more reliable and energy-efficient than the tube-type equipment they replaced. In addition to installing the 800 units, the contractors delivered 150 VORTACs for FAA to install as sites were readied. The agency’s technicians had installed more than 60 of these systems by September 1985. The new VORTACs were the first FAA systems to have Remote Maintenance Monitoring (RMM), a feature that greatly reduced the need for site visits.
Wednesday, September 18, 1985:DOT issued a rule prohibiting deceptive airline code-sharing. The rule required airlines sharing the same two-letter designator code to notify passengers of the arrangement and identify the airline actually providing the transportation.
Wednesday, September 25, 1985:American Airlines agreed to pay a $1.5 million civil penalty, the largest levied by FAA to that date. Most of the safety violations cited against American had been uncovered in a special inspection that summer.
Wednesday, October 9, 1985:FAA announced that the agency had signed an agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct a joint study of the benefits of continued development of tiltrotor aircraft. This type of aircraft is equipped with rotors that tilt to act like a helicopter rotor during takeoff and landing, yet perform like a conventional propeller for cruise flight. The XV-15, a small proof-of-concept aircraft, had been flying successfully since 1977, and the larger V-22 Osprey was under development for DOD. The joint study (published in two phases, in 1987 and 1991) concluded that civil tiltrotors could be both technically and commercially feasible. (See June 16, 1988.)
Thursday, October 10, 1985:FAA and general aviation manufacturers gave a preview of a “Back to Basics” safety program to a group of pilots at the National Air and Space Museum. Beginning on January 1, 1986, the program used presentations and clinics to increase pilot awareness of a different safety topic each quarter for three years. The first year’s topics included: takeoff and landing; collision avoidance; weather; and fueling and fuel planning. The program proved successful, and on January 1, 1990, FAA began a Back to Basic II program scheduled to run through 1994.
October 1985:As part of its continued upgrading of automated radar terminal systems, FAA commissioned the first ARTS IIIA installation to use a new software package designated A3.02 at Ontario International Airport, Calif. An enhanced version of the A3.01 software (see December 1979, and March 26, 1986), the A3.02 package could be used at facilities employing data from more than one radar sensor. In November 1986, the first ARTS IIIA to use the still more advanced A3.03 software was commissioned at Burbank, Calif. This new package included an enhanced conflict alert capability that was less prone to false alarms. Meanwhile, FAA continued to install ARTS IIIA hardware, and had replaced most of the basic ARTS III systems by the end of 1986.
Friday, November 1, 1985:FAA published a rule requiring any person flying an aircraft equipped with a radar beacon transponder to operate the transponder (including altitude reporting equipment if installed) while in controlled airspace. This requirement had previously applied to pilots in Terminal Control Areas (TCAs) and flying en route above 12,500 ft. (see June 4, 1973). FAA now extended it to those operating in airport control zones, designated Federal airways, and transition zones. The new rule involved no requirements for installation of additional equipment (see January 29, 1987).
Thursday, November 7, 1985:DOT announced final approval for United Airlines acquisition of Pan American’s Pacific Division. The transaction meant the end of Pan Am’s far-flung Pacific operations, except for service between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland. (See November 14, 1990.)
Wednesday, November 13, 1985:FAA published a rule requiring shoulder harnesses for all seats in new airplanes with less than ten passenger seats manufactured after December 12, 1986. The rule extended an earlier requirement that had applied only to the front seats of small aircraft (see June 16, 1977).
Saturday, November 23, 1985:An unusually bloody hijacking began when three men seized control of an Egyptair 737 with 98 persons aboard shortly after takeoff from Athens. In a midair gunfight, one hijacker was killed and an Egyptian security guard and two flight attendants were wounded. The hijackers demanded to fly to Libya or Tunisia, but agreed to refuel at Malta. In an attempt to force Maltese authorities to supply the fuel, the hijackers shot five hostages, killing two of them, including an American woman. After 22 hours of negotiation, an Egyptian military force stormed the plane. During the rescue action, 57 persons were killed and about 30 others injured.
Wednesday, December 4, 1985:An FAA DC-3 (registration number N-34) arrived at Washington National Airport to begin a new career as a flying exhibit. Manufactured in 1945, N-34 had belonged to the Navy before its transfer to FAA in 1963. With many other DC-3s, it performed quality assurance and facility certification checks on the nation’s airways before its retirement from this role on September 9, 1982. N-34 was exhibited at air shows until retired from active service as a cost saving measure in early 1994.
Thursday, December 12, 1985:A chartered DC-8 operated by the U.S. carrier Arrow Air crashed on takeoff from Gander, Newfoundland. All 256 persons aboard died, including 248 U.S. soldiers returning from the Mideast. Early theories on the tragedy’s cause included the possibility that it was part of a series of crashes involving engine failure (see August 22, 1985), and FAA conducted a special inspection of jet engine repair facilities following the accident. On December 8, 1988, the Canadian Aviation Safety Board released a divided verdict on the crash’s probable cause. The majority of five members cited icing on the wings, perhaps combined with the loss of thrust from one engine (see January 13, 1982, and November 15, 1987). A minority of four concluded that an in-flight explosion was most likely. FAA increased surveillance of Arrow Air following the Gander crash, and an in-depth inspection of airlines operating under military charter was announced in January 1986. Subsequent actions included the February 8 temporary grounding all 10 of Arrow’s DC-8s pending replacement of unapproved spare parts. Nine years later, in March 1995, Arrow voluntarily ceased operations for nearly three months following an FAA inspection that revealed safety violations.
Friday, December 20, 1985:DOT published a new rule on allocation of takeoff and landing reservations (“slots”) at the four airports subject to flight quotas under the High Density Rule (see March 6, 1984). Beginning on April 1, 1986, any person might buy, sell, trade, or lease air carrier or commuter slots (with the exception of international and essential air service slots, which were subject to certain transfer restrictions). A lottery procedure was provided for allocation of new slots, or slots returned under the rule’s use-or-lose provision. On March 12, 1986, DOT issued a special rule aimed at increasing competition: 5 percent of slots at high density airports would be assigned by lottery to new entrants and incumbent air carriers with fewer than 8 slots. Although the High Density Rule was subsequently amended in certain other respects, its main provisions remained essentially unchanged despite opposition from some parts of the aviation community. On June 16, 1995, DOT released a report on the issue and announced its conclusion that, on balance, the rule was currently beneficial.
Friday, December 27, 1985:Near-simultaneous Arab terrorist attacks on airports in Rome and Vienna caused the death of 20 persons, including four of the terrorists, and injured approximately 120. Five of the victims killed were U.S. citizens. The attacks centered on the check-in counters of the Israeli airline El Al. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi praised the terrorists, thus contributing to tensions between his nation and the United States. (See February 11, 1986.)
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.