FAA History: 1986

Tuesday, January 7, 1986:The first helicopter flight simulator certificated by the Federal Aviation Administration was commissioned at the Bell Helicopter plant in Hurst, Texas, for use in Bell 222 helicopter training and proficiency checks.
Thursday, January 9, 1986:FAA published a rule requiring passenger-carrying airliners to carry a medical kit in addition to the basic first aid kits already mandated. The agency estimated that roughly 21 in-flight deaths occurred annually, most involving persons already suffering from terminal illnesses. FAA expected that about 10 percent of the in-flight deaths would be prevented by the new rule, which became effective August 1, 1986.
Thursday, January 23, 1986:Northwest Airlines announced that it would buy Republic Airlines. DOT approved the merger on July 31, 1986.
Tuesday, January 28, 1986:The space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff from Cape Canaveral. The accident killed all seven persons aboard and dealt a severe blow to the U.S. space program. No further shuttle flights took place until September 29, 1988.
Monday, February 10, 1986:FAA formally established the National Aviation Safety Inspection Program (NASIP), a plan to continue on a more systematic basis the kind of in-depth inspections begun under the National Air Transportation Inspection, or NATI (see March 4, 1984). An inspection of Eastern Air Lines already begun in December 1985 became part of NASIP (see March 7, 1986). The program also included inspections targeting airlines operating under military charter, an emphasis that fulfilled a directive issued by the Secretary of Transportation in the wake of a crash in Newfoundland (see December 12, 1985). NASIP inspections during fiscal 1986 included 18 carriers providing military charter flights, as well as 20 turbine engine repair stations. The program was then redefined annually, as were the certificate holders targeted for inspections, and special emphasis inspections were conducted as circumstances warranted.
Tuesday, February 11, 1986:The Department of Transportation released an order suspending commercial aviation relations with Libya. The action made final a tentative order issued in response to a January 7 Presidential directive which declared Libya a threat to U.S. security. Tensions between the two nations continued to grow, fed by events that included naval clashes and a bombing in Germany in which a U.S. soldier was one of the two fatalities. On April 15, the confrontation culminated in a U.S. air raid against Libya. (See December 27, 1985, and April 15, 1992.)
Wednesday, February 12, 1986:FAA commissioned the first “family” group of automated flight service stations (AFSSs), at airports in Cleveland, Ohio, Dayton, Ohio, and Bridgeport, Conn. The group of stations used the Model 1 Flight Service Automation System (see October 2, 1981). They were linked by dedicated communications lines with a Central Flight Service Data Processing System (FSDPS) at the Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center. Computer terminals at the three automated stations gave flight service specialists quick access to weather information, flight plans, and other data continually fed into the FSDPS. The commissioning was part of FAA’s long-range plan to consolidate all its flight service stations into 61 automated facilities. On September 28, 1987, FAA completed the first phase of the AFSS program as it commissioned the 37th and final AFSS planned to receive the initial version of the Model 1 system. In February 1987, meanwhile, Congress had approved development of the Model 1 Full Capacity system in place of the Model 2 system that FAA had originally planned. (See November 1982, and November 8, 1991)
Thursday, February 20, 1986:Transportation Secretary Dole announced a comprehensive review of domestic airport security to be coordinated by her Safety Review Task Force (see August 16, 1985). The Task Force submitted its initial recommendations in August 1986, and FAA responded with a range of actions to improve security training and planning, and to tighten access to secure areas.
Monday, February 24, 1986:Financially troubled Eastern Air Lines tentatively accepted a buy-out offer by Texas Air. The board’s decision followed labor negotiations in which Eastern’s pilots agreed to make concessions but the union representing machinists and mechanics demanded replacement of Chairman Frank Borman. Following the purchase agreement, Borman remained as Eastern’s head until his resignation in June. (See October 1, 1986.)
Saturday, February 1, 1986:FAA completed acceptance testing for new Flight Data Input/Output (FDIO) equipment. FDIO, which provided a modernized method of transmitting and updating flight plan information, was delivered to 11 air route traffic control centers and their associated terminals during fiscal 1986. By the end of FY 1987, FAA had accepted delivery of FDIO equipment to all enroute and terminal control facilities; the first system became operational in December 1989.
Saturday, March 1, 1986:Trans World Airlines acquired Ozark Airlines under an agreement that received Department of Transportation approval in September. Ozark had begun flying in 1950 and expanded within the Midwest, then grew beyond that region with the introduction of airline deregulation in the late 1970s. The airline had encountered economic difficulties, beginning in 1984. Ozark’s operations merged into those of TWA on October 26, 1986.
Friday, March 7, 1986:FAA proposed a $9.5 million civil penalty against Eastern Air Lines, by far the largest penalty the agency had proposed to that date, for safety violations revealed during an inspection from December 3, 1985, through February 20, 1986. Eastern objected to the fine, but in February 1987 agreed to pay. Meanwhile, on August 22, 1986, FAA announced that Pan American would pay $1.95 million for safety violations revealed by an inspection that began in March. This was the largest penalty actually levied by FAA to that date, but smaller than the $3.9 million originally proposed to Pan Am for these violations.
Thursday, March 13, 1986:FAA activated the domestic message portion of a computerized system to collect, process, and distribute notices to airmen (NOTAMs) throughout the U.S. airspace system and abroad. This completed the commissioning of the Consolidated NOTAM System (CNS), culminating a two-year implementation effort that began in February 1984 when the international messages subsystem of CNS came on line.
Friday, March 14, 1986:FAA announced the choice of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University to provide a new management training facility to replace the existing school at Lawton, Okla. (see May 3, 1971). After building the new school at Palm Coast, Fla., Embry Riddle operated the facility for FAA under a 20 year contract, while FAA awarded separate contracts for instructional services. FAA dedicated the new school, named the Center for Management Development (CMD), on October 15, 1987, and the first class began four days later.
Saturday, March 15, 1986:FAA Administrator Engen and the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration Director signed a U.S.-Chinese agreement on cooperation in civil aviation. The agreement covered a wide range of activities including the exchange of scientific and technical information and personnel, cooperation in research and development, and the provision of training and other technical assistance. (See May 5, 1985, and March 31, 1995.)
Wednesday, March 26, 1986:FAA announced a contract to upgrade the New York Radar Approach Control (TRACON) Facility, which provided radar service to aircraft approaching and departing the major hubs and designated satellite airports in the New York area. The existing facility used a special ARTS IIIA Automated Radar Terminal System capable of tracking 1,200 radar targets at one time. This would be upgraded to a unique ARTS IIIE able to simultaneously track 1,700 targets. The second stage of the enhancement would allow tracking of 2,800 targets, with a capability of expanding to 3,400 targets if needed. (See January 10, 1981, and September 20, 1991.)
Saturday, March 1, 1986:FAA commissioned the first second-generation common radar digitizer, known as CD-2, for operational use (see April 6, 1979). The first two CD-2s had been delivered to the FAA Academy on February 11, 1983, and the first field delivery took place in May 1984.
Wednesday, April 2, 1986:A bomb hidden under a seat cushion exploded aboard a TWA 727 on approach to Athens, Greece, creating a hole in the fuselage four feet in diameter. The blast killed four passengers and injured nine others, but the aircraft landed safely. The bomb was similar to one that exploded on August 11, 1982, aboard a Pan American 747 flying from Japan to Hawaii, killing 1 person and injuring 15.
Tuesday, April 15, 1986:In a move to consolidate aviation medicine expertise and responsibilities, FAA transferred direction of the Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) from the Director of the Aeronautical Center to the Federal Air Surgeon. (See September 30, 1966.)
Tuesday, April 29, 1986:Direct airline service between the United States and the Soviet Union resumed after an interruption of over four years (see December 29, 1981). The flights resulted from an agreement announced soon after the November 1985 summit meeting of President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. (See February 16, 1990.)
Friday, May 16, 1986:FAA published a rule upgrading fire safety standards for cargo or baggage compartments in future transport category aircraft by establishing new fire test requirements. The regulation also limited the volume of Class D compartments (those not readily accessible to crewmembers or equipped with built-in fire extinguishers, but instead designed to control fire by restricting oxygen). The rule stemmed from a testing project undertaken at the FAA Technical Center in the wake of a Saudi Arabian in-flight fire (see August 19, 1980) and from a rulemaking proposal published in August 1984. (See February 10, 1989.)
Monday, June 2, 1986:FAA and the Coast Guard concluded a Memorandum of Agreement outlining the roles of each agency in developing the LORAN-C navigation system for use by civil aviators (see August 23, 1984). In an updated edition of the National Airspace System (NAS) Plan issued that same month, FAA included a new project for LORAN-C, an interim, supplemental radio navigation system providing at least single-level coverage for instrument flight rules (IFR) navigation for the contiguous U.S., eventually including the “mid-continent gap” not covered by existing transmitters. FAA would provide procurement funds, while the Coast Guard would operate and maintain the transmitters. Non-precision LORAN-C approaches would also be supported where signal requirements were met, and FAA therefore planned to acquire and operate equipment to check the quality of LORAN-C signals. In October 1986, the agency awarded a contract for the first 112 of these signal monitors. (See May 14, 1991.)
Wednesday, June 18, 1986:A Bell 206B helicopter and a DHC-6 Twin Otter airplane collided while conducting air tours over the Grand Canyon National Park, killing all 25 persons aboard the two aircraft. The National Transportation Safety Board listed the probable cause as the failure of both flightcrews to see and avoid each other for undetermined reasons. As contributory factors, the Board listed: failure of FAA oversight regarding Grand Canyon flights; National Park Service influence over route selection by air tour operators; and modification of helicopter routes to intersect those used by fixed-wing aircraft. On December 9, 1986, FAA published a proposal to establish special temporary flight restrictions above the Canyon, to be followed by a permanent rule addressing the safety and noise issues associated with operations over the park. (See March 26, 1987.)
Friday, June 20, 1986:A directive issued this date established a new Office of Science and Advanced Technology reporting directly to the Administrator. The office was later abolished by a directive issued on August 29, 1988.
Sunday, July 6, 1986:President Reagan proclaimed this to be National Air Traffic Control Day in honor of the 50th anniversary of Federal involvement in controlling air traffic (see July 6, 1936). FAA personnel throughout the nation observed the occasion with ceremonies and celebrations.
Monday, July 21, 1986:FAA published a rule setting stricter flammability standards for materials used in cabins of existing and future airliners with 20 or more passenger seats. The new standards required use of fire resistant and slower-burning materials for cabin sidewalls, ceilings, partitions, storage bins, galleys, and other interior structures. Establishment of such standards had been one of the recommendations of the Special Aviation Fire and Explosion Reduction (SAFER) Advisory Committee (see September 10, 1980). The necessary research had been conducted primarily at the FAA Technical Center, and further toxicity studies had been carried out at the agency’s Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI). The new rule was effective on August 20, 1986, but prescribed a phased compliance schedule stretching over four years.
Tuesday, August 5, 1986: In an example of action under the International Security Development and Cooperation Act (see entry for June 14, 1985), the Department of Transportation announced that Manila airport in the Philippines did not maintain effective security standards. Airlines were required to inform passengers buying tickets for Manila of this determination. Following an FAA team’s inspection, the Department on September 2 announced that the airport now met international security standards.
Wednesday, August 13, 1986:The National Academy of Sciences issued a report on airliner cabin air quality and related safety issues. The report had been mandated by Congress in 1984. Its most controversial recommendation was a ban on smoking on all domestic commercial flights (see April 23, 1988). The authors cited four major reasons: to lessen discomfort to passengers and crew; to reduce potential health hazards to cabin crewmembers from environmental tobacco smoke; to eliminate possible fires; and to align cabin air quality with standards for other closed environments. Further recommendations included an FAA review of carbon dioxide standards, which eventually resulted in a 1996 rule lowering the allowable concentration of this gas for occupied areas of transport aircraft from 3.0 to 0.5 percent. The report’s other suggestions included FAA consideration of requiring additional protective breathing equipment for use during in-flight fires aboard airliners (see May 26, 1987).
Thursday, August 21, 1986:FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Centers handled 112,467 en route operations, the highest single-day traffic to that date. Record operations levels at many facilities in fiscal 1986 helped to create a 19.85 percent increase in delays as compared to the previous year. During the fiscal year, FAA proceeded with implementation of a Traffic Management System integrating certain air traffic control functions to create a more orderly traffic flow. Work also continued on the Expanded East Coast Plan, the first phase of which was scheduled for implementation in 1987 (see February 12, 1987). Under development since 1982, the plan was designed to alleviate congestion in the New York area and associated airspace through the use of additional departure routes and other techniques. During fiscal 1986, FAA also deployed mobile “tiger teams” of personnel with expertise in a variety of air traffic control disciplines to improve traffic management in areas experiencing delays.
Sunday, August 31, 1986:A Mexican DC-9 and a Piper PA-28 collided in clear sky over Cerritos, CA. The Piper had inadvertently made an unauthorized entry into the Los Angeles Terminal Control Area (TCA), and its radar return was not observed by the controller providing service to the Mexican flight. The accident killed 82 persons–all 64 aboard the DC-9, all 3 aboard the Piper, and 15 on the ground. The National Transportation Safety Board later listed the probable cause as the limitations of the air traffic control system to provide collision protection, through both air traffic control procedures and automated redundancy. The Cerritos accident was the first midair collision to occur within a TCA. On September 15, FAA Administrator Engen appointed a special task force to study actions to improve the TCAs. On October 27, the agency announced plans to implement the group’s 40 recommendations, including: a minimum 60-day license suspension for pilots violating TCA boundaries (see October 10, 1986); expanded requirements for altitude encoding transponders (see January 29, 1987); and action to simplify and standardize the design of TCAs (see January 12, 1989).
Friday, September 5, 1986:At Karachi, Pakistan, four men dressed as security guards stormed a Pan American 747. The flight crew escaped, but the four terrorists demanded a crew to fly them to Cyprus. They killed an American passenger during the ensuing 17 hour negotiations. When the lights aboard the aircraft failed, the terrorists began a massacre, killing 22 persons and injuring 125 before being arrested.
Monday, September 1, 1986:An FAA/Air Force review board endorsed specifications for a new long-range Air Route Surveillance Radar, designated ARSR-4, for use at joint surveillance sites. On July 25, 1988, FAA announced that it had awarded Westinghouse a $271.6 million contract for 34 ARSR-4s. The new three-dimensional, solid state equipment would replace the 25- to 30-year-old Joint Surveillance radars, improving detection and reducing the clutter from terrain, weather, and other sources. The Air Force and FAA shared the cost of all but one of the ARSR-4s, which the Navy purchased. FAA began initial testing of the new radar during fiscal 1992. (See June 25, 1979, and April 12, 1996.)
Wednesday, October 1, 1986:DOT gave final approval for Frank Lorenzo’s Texas Air holding company to acquire Eastern Air Lines (see February 24, 1986), with Lorenzo becoming Eastern’s chairman on October 15. The Department had earlier rejected the merger on August 26, but reversed itself following an agreement safeguarding Pan American’s role as a competitor on the Boston/New York/Washington shuttle routes. On October 24, DOT gave final sanction to Texas Air’s acquisition of People Express and most of the assets of People’s bankrupt subsidiary, Frontier Airlines. A no-frills airline, People Express had grown rapidly after staring operations on April 30, 1981, but had begun to experience heavy losses in 1985. (See February 1, 1987.)
Thursday, October 9, 1986:FAA announced an agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for a joint program to develop basic requirements for an airborne wind shear detection and avoidance system. The program’s goal was a predictive alert system that could “look ahead” of the aircraft, as distinguished from already-available systems that reacted when wind shear was encountered. (See August 2, 1985, and September 22, 1988.)
Friday, October 10, 1986:FAA issued an enforcement bulletin implementing a 60-day suspension of the certificate of any unauthorized pilot who entered a Terminal Control Area (TCA). The agency could seek harsher actions, including a $1,000 civil penalty, if there were aggravating circumstances, such as causing a near midair collision while illegally within a TCA. (See August 31, 1986, and March 5, 1990.)
Tuesday, October 21, 1986:FAA announced the award of two contracts to develop competing prototypes of the Voice Switching and Control System (VSCS). The system would provide controllers at air route traffic control centers with computer-controlled voice switching for air-ground communications and well as intercom and interphone communications within and between FAA facilities. Compared to the existing electromechanical system, the new electronic VSCS would be faster, more reliable, and cheaper to maintain. Harris Corporation received the production contract on December 31, 1991. (See June 30, 1995.)
Thursday, October 23, 1986:FAA announced the purchase of 19 turboprop Beech Super King Air Model 300 aircraft for its flight inspection fleet used to check the accuracy of air navigation and landing aids. Expected to be more fuel efficient and easier to maintain, the new aircraft were to replace a number of Saberliner Model 80s and all five of the agency’s Jet Commander Model 1121 aircraft. Delivery began in April 1988. The purchase was part of a modernization process that was reducing the number and types of aircraft that FAA used for flight inspection and for other purposes. At its peak in FY 1964, the agency’s total fleet had consisted of 116 aircraft of 24 different types. In FY 1987, the fleet would be reduced to 50 aircraft of 16 types. (See July 8, 1973 and October 1, 1991.)
Thursday, October 30, 1986:President Reagan signed the Public Law 99-591, including Title VI, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Act of 1986 authorizing the transfer of control of Washington National and Dulles International Airports to an independent regional authority under a 50-year lease (see June 8, 1984, and June 7, 1987). The authority was to be created by agreement between Virginia and the District of Columbia. It would be governed by a board of 11 members appointed by the Governor of Virginia (5), the Mayor of the District of Columbia (3), the Governor of Maryland (2), and the President (1). The law also prohibited airlines from operating non-stop flights between Washington National and any airport more than 1,250 miles distant, a wider non-stop service perimeter than previously set by policy (see December 6, 1981).
Title V of P.L. 99-591, the Aviation Safety Commission Act of 1986, established for 18 months a commission of seven Presidentially appointed members to study how FAA might most effectively fulfill its functions. In April 1988, the commission released its final report, concluding that overall the nation’s air transportation system was safe, but that the regulatory structure was inadequate to deal with future growth and technological change. The commission’s recommendations included: the creation of an independent federal aviation authority with a separate safety director; increased safety inspections; tighter regulation of commuter aircraft operations; mandatory use of Mode C transponders for general aviation aircraft flying near hub airports; and a set term for the FAA administrator.
Friday, October 31, 1986:In a restructuring of the organizational complex under the Associate Administrator for Aviation Standards, the Office of Flight Operations was retitled the Office of Flight Standards. The Rotorcraft Program Office, which had been disbanded on March 7, was formally abolished and its functions divided between the Office of Flight Standards and the Office of Airworthiness. Certain other adjustments in the responsibilities of these two offices also took effect.
Sunday, November 16, 1986:Effective this date, a Department of Transportation order ended air service between the U.S. and South Africa, as required by the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986. (See August 8, 1991.)
Tuesday, December 23, 1986:Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager became the first aircraft pilots to circle the globe without landing or refueling when their experimental airplane Voyager touched down at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., after covering 25,000 miles in nine days. The aircraft had a propeller at each end of its fuselage, and was equipped with a main wing nearly 111 feet long as well as a smaller forward wing. Voyager took off on December 14 with 1,200 gallons of fuel and landed with only eight gallons of usable fuel remaining.
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.