FAA History: 1987

Wednesday, January 28, 1987:Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Hanford Dole announced a three-part effort to help reduce airline delays. The initiative included: a proposal to grant immunity to the airlines to permit them to conduct joint discussion aimed at adjusting schedules; an investigation to determine if and how airline scheduling processes contributed to delays; and a series of FAA actions to increase system capacity and efficiency. Those FAA steps included the use of computer traffic models to help airlines adjust schedules, a realignment of the air traffic control sectors in the New York/Boston corridor, a review of air traffic procedures on a facility-by-facility basis, and the transfer of additional controllers to the busiest facilities.
Thursday, January 29, 1987:FAA issued a rule establishing requirements pertaining to the use, installation, inspection, and testing of transponders in U.S.-registered civil aircraft. The rule continued the requirement that aircraft be equipped with a transponder for operation in Terminal Control Areas (TCAs) and in the airspace of the 48 contiguous states above 12,500 feet above ground level (see November 1, 1985). The requirement for automatic pressure altitude reporting (Mode C) equipment, currently mandatory in all of the above airspace except Group II TCAs, was extended to include Group II TCAs, effective December 1, 1987 (see June 21, 1988). The rule also contained provisions intended to provide for transition from Air Traffic Control Radar Beacon System (ATCRBS) transponders to Mode S transponders (see October 5, 1984). All transponders newly installed in U.S.-registered aircraft were required to be Mode S transponders after January 1, 1992, a deadline that was subsequently extended to July 1, 1992. (See July 30, 1992.)
Sunday, February 1, 1987:The Texas Air holding corporation merged New York Air and People Express into Continental Airlines.
Monday, February 2, 1987:FAA’s Federal Air Surgeon resigned and was reassigned at his own request to help end a controversy over airmen certification. Critics had charged that the Federal Air Surgeon had granted waivers to commercial pilots whom they considered medically unfit to fly.
Thursday, February 12, 1987:FAA initiated Phase 1 of the Expanded East Coast Plan (EECP) to help increase the capacity of the National Airspace System (see August 21, 1986). The plan had been originally intended to relieve traffic congestion in the New York and Washington, D.C., areas through the more effective use of airspace, but was expanded to cover the airspace from Maine to Florida and west to Chicago. The EECP: created new departure and arrival routes; established separate paths and altitudes for jets and slower propeller aircraft; set up new city-pair routes; and used new traffic management techniques to increase airport departure flows and reduce holding procedures. The agency initiated Phase II of plan on November 19. That phase involved a realignment of the northwest departure quadrant from the New York Metropolitan area. The agency also increased the number of westbound high-altitude, routes from one to four to expedite traffic flows to Chicago, Detroit, and the west coast. The final phase of the EECP, implemented on March 10, 1988, was designed to improve traffic flow from the New York area to the northeast, and involved changes affecting the airspace in New England, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. (See August 25, 1988.)
Tuesday, February 17, 1987:FAA added a new commuter category of aircraft and set forth the airworthiness and operating rules, certification procedures, and noise rules for that additional category of propeller-driven, multi-engine airplane, with a seating capacity of no more than 19, and a takeoff weight of no more than 19,000 pounds.
Tuesday, February 17, 1987:DOT announced a program designed to identify and prosecute pilots who failed to declare drug or alcohol-related convictions on medical certificate applications. (See April 17, 1985, and July 26, 1990.)
Monday, February 23, 1987:In the wake of a series of fatal accidents, FAA began a 60-day surveillance of civilian air ambulance programs. Agency inspectors investigated equipment, maintenance, training, and pilots’ hours. The program was followed by publication of new safety guidelines for emergency medical service helicopters.
Saturday, February 28, 1987:General William F. McKee died in San Antonio, TX. After serving as FAA’s third Administrator (see July 1, 1965), McKee had been a partner in a consulting firm before retiring.
Wednesday, March 18, 1987:Donald D. Engen announced his resignation as FAA Administrator, effective in July (the exact date became July 2). On Engen’s departure, the position of Acting Administrator was filled by Robert Whittington, Director of the New England Region. (See July 22, 1987.)
Wednesday, March 18, 1987:The first revenue flight of an airplane equipped with an operational TCAS II version of the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System occurred (see June 23, 1981). Two airliners began an in-service evaluation of the system on January 31, 1988, marking the start of FAA’s TCAS II Limited Installation Program. Three airlines participated in the program, which was designed to resolve any outstanding technical and operational questions about the system’s use in regularly scheduled service. (See January 10, 1989.)
Wednesday, March 25, 1987:FAA published a rule requiring Cockpit Voice Recorders on new jet and turboprop commuter aircraft manufactured after May 26, 1989 (see June 26, 1964). The rule also mandated the installation of more sophisticated digital Flight Data Recorders on about 2,000 older large commercial jets, with compliance also by May 26, 1989. (See August 12, 1970, and June 30, 1988.)
Thursday, March 26, 1987:FAA published a special rule addressing aviation safety and noise concerns at the Grand Canyon (see June 18, 1986). Provisions included: a temporary Special Flight Rule Area limiting operations below 9,000 feet mean sea level above the Canyon; prohibition of flights below the Canyon rim, with some exceptions; and requirements aimed at reducing the risk of midair collisions and terrain impact. Another rule, published on June 15, 1987, modified and extended these temporary provisions. On August 18, 1987, enactment of Public Law 100-91 mandated a study of aircraft noise impacts at a number of national parks and required flight restrictions at three parks: Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Haleakala. The law specified that FAA would prepare and issue a final plan for air traffic management above the Grand Canyon, based on recommendations from the Interior Department. On June 2, 1988, FAA published a rule implementing Interior’s preliminary recommendations, with some modifications. Among other provisions, this rule: raised the ceiling of the Special Flight Rule Area to 14,500 feet mean sea level; established flight-free zones from the surface to 14,500 feet above large areas of the park; and provided routes for commercial tour operators and transient operators through the canyon area. The rule was to expire after June 15, 1992, but was given two extensions totaling five years to allow for completion and review of National Park Service studies of the Canyon noise issue. On June 19, 1992, meanwhile, a crash claiming 10 lives continued a series of fatal accidents in the Canyon vicinity. The accidents prompted FAA to establish a new geographical unit to help oversee the area’s air tourism. (See March 17, 1994.)
Wednesday, April 1, 1987:Western Airlines merged into Delta Air Lines.
April 1987:Completion of a construction project at the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center early this month marked the conclusion of a nationwide ARTCC expansion program. (See September 26, 1984).
Thursday, May 14, 1987:President Reagan announced his nomination of Lawrence M. Hecker as FAA’s Deputy Administrator. The nominee was a former pilot and vice president of flight operations for Western Airlines. Hecker withdrew his candidacy in September because the Senate failed to act on the nomination.
Sunday, May 17, 1987:FAA began using the Aircraft Situation Display (ASD) at its Central Flow Control Facility at Washington Headquarters. ASD provided traffic managers with a near real-time visual display of en route aircraft operating under instrument flight rules nationally, regionally, or to a specific airport terminal area. The information was provided by more than 100 long-range radars across the country. On July 25, 1988, FAA announced the addition of Monitor Alert to ASD. Monitor Alert was a computer system designed to analyze flight plans and project when and where airspace congestion was likely. By May 1994, FAA had installed ASD at 41 en route and terminal facilities. (See December 31, 1983, and November 15, 1990.)
Tuesday, May 19, 1987:USAir absorbed Pacific Southwest Airlines. On October 30, DOT announced its approval for USAir’s proposed acquisition of Piedmont Airlines. Formal merger of the two airlines’ parent companies occurred on August 5, 1989, and full integration of Piedmont Airlines into USAir was not completed until February 1, 1990.
Wednesday, May 20, 1987:FAA Administrator Donald Engen announced that the agency had formally adopted a new policy that permitted instrument landing systems (ILS) to be installed at some hub and reliever airports. FAA had earlier imposed a freeze on installation of ILS in favor of microwave landing systems (MLS), but Engen said that more ILSs would help address the problem of limited airport capacity in the short run. (See January 12, 1984, and April 6, 1989.)
Tuesday, May 26, 1987:A new FAA regulation required airline operators to equip all large passenger aircraft with protective breathing equipment (PBE) for flight attendants to use in fighting in-flight fires, and to provide training in PBE use. The rule applied the same performance standards to this equipment as to the PBEs already required for cockpit crew members. FAA had proposed the rule in October 1985 in response to National Transportation Safety Board recommendations and to several in-flight fires. FAA originally gave airlines two years to comply with the regulation, but subsequently granted extensions to January 31, 1991, for PBE installation and to July 31, 1992 for training. (See March 29, 1985.)
Friday, May 29, 1987:FAA commissioned the first of its Host Computer Systems at the Seattle air route traffic control center (ARTCC). On June 23, 1988, the agency commissioned the last of the systems at the Salt Lake City ARTCC, completing the Host implementation program at all 20 continental ARTCCs. (See July 26, 1985.)
Friday, June 5, 1987:FAA published a rule requiring airlines to develop and use approved programs to control the amount and size of carry-on baggage, with compliance by January 1, 1988. The agency specified that airlines must ensure that passengers did not bring excessive luggage aboard, and that all luggage was safely stowed prior to closing the last cabin door when preparing for takeoff. FAA’s regulation of carry-on bags had begun with a September 1967 requirement that passengers could take to their seats only items that could be securely stowed under a seat. The rules had subsequently evolved as cabin interiors changed.
Sunday, June 7, 1987:The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) took over management of National and Dulles airports from FAA. The MWAA had been created by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Act (see October 30, 1986). Under the terms of a lease agreement with the Federal government, the new authority would operate the two airports for 50 years and would pay the government a total of $150 million for the lease period. Almost 700 FAA employees left the agency to join the MWAA, and a directive issued on October 26, 1987, abolished FAA’s Metropolitan Washington Airports organization.
Friday, June 12, 1987:FAA commissioned its new National Concepts Development and Demonstration Heliport at the Technical Center. The research heliport was fully equipped with such items as a microwave landing system, an automated weather observing system, precision approach path indication lights, and reconfigurable landing lights.
Friday, June 19, 1987:The Federal Labor Relations Authority certified the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) as the exclusive representative of all GS-2152 series terminal and center controllers whose primary duty was separation of aircraft. The controllers had voted for representation by a margin of 7,494 to 3,275, using mail ballots sent to them on May 6. The Authority had announced the outcome on June 11. (See July 2, 1982, and May 1, 1989.)
Wednesday, July 1, 1987:AirCal merged into American Airlines. AirCal had begun flying in January 1967 as an intrastate carrier called Air California, then expanded to destinations outside the state in 1978. The airline had adopted the name AirCal in 1981.
Wednesday, July 22, 1987:T. Allan McArtor became the tenth FAA Administrator, succeeding Donald D. Engen (see April 10, 1984). McArtor took the oath a second time in a public ceremony on July 27. President Reagan had announced the new Administrator’s appointment on June 5, and the Senate had confirmed it on July 17. Born in 1942 in St. Louis, Mo., McArtor received a B.S.E. from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1964 and a M.S.E. in engineering mechanics from Arizona State University in 1971. He served as a fighter pilot in Vietnam, logging 200 combat missions and winning the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross. McArtor flew with the Air Force Thunderbirds precision flying team from 1972 to 1974. He joined the Federal Express Corporation in 1979, and was senior vice president for telecommunications at the time of his selection to head FAA. He had also chaired the Department of Transportation Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee from June 1986 to June 1987. McArtor served as FAA Administrator for over 18 months, resigning during the first month of the Bush Administration. (See February 17, 1989.)
Monday, July 27, 1987:During a public ceremony in which he took the oath as FAA Administrator a second time, Allan McArtor described his plan to restore public confidence in the aviation system through a set of initiatives later dubbed Impact 88. In a speech on September 15, McArtor outlined these eight initiatives, which were to be revealed in more detail during the succeeding weeks. Focusing on fiscal 1988, the program was to enhance aviation safety in the areas of airline accountability, aircrew performance, airspace capacity, advanced technology, aviation awareness, air transportation security, airport development, and agency effectiveness. Among the elements of Impact 88 were reviews of training for pilots and air traffic controllers, and an inspection of the aircraft manufacturing industry (see September 21, 1987).
Sunday, August 16, 1987:A Northwest Airlines MD-80 crashed on takeoff at Detroit, killing all but one of the 157 persons aboard as well as two persons on the ground. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cited the probable cause as the crew’s failure to use the taxi checklist to ensure that the flaps and slates were extended for takeoff. A contributory factor was an unexplained absence of power to the airplane takeoff warning system. FAA actions in response to the accident and to NTSB recommendations included required changes to MD-80 warning systems and steps aimed at improving flightcrew performance.
Wednesday, August 19, 1987:Effective this date, a Special Federal Aviation Administration Rule (SFAR) altered the Los Angeles, Calif., terminal control area (TCA). The rule raised the upper limits of the TCA from 7,000 to 12,500 feet above mean sea level to enable air traffic control to provide terminal air traffic control service to arriving and departing aircraft in the TCA. The action also eliminated the visual flight rule (VFR) corridor in one area of the TCA to minimize the mix of controlled and uncontrolled operations in the vicinity of Los Angeles (see August 31, 1986, and March 10, 1988).
Tuesday, September 1, 1987:An FAA rule issued this date required: that 12-inch high nationality and registration marks be displayed on all aircraft that penetrate and Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) or Defense Early Warning Identification Zone (DEWIZ); that an identification data plate be displayed on the exterior of each U.S.-registered civil aircraft; and that operators of aircraft modified to carry fuel tanks within the passenger or baggage compartment keep a copy of the form authorizing that modification on board. A related rule, issued October 5, 1988, required transponder-equipped aircraft to have their transponders turned on during flights into or out of the United States penetrating an ADIZ. The rule also established flight plan and position report requirements for operations penetrating the ADIZ around the contiguous 48 states. Both rules were a response to concerns raised by the U.S. Customs Service in 1985, and FAA stated that they were actions to combat hazards resulting from airborne drug smuggling. (See April 22, 1982, and March 6, 1990.)
Wednesday, September 2, 1987:DOT announced a rule directing all major air carriers to file regular monthly reports on their delay and baggage-handling records.
Wednesday, September 9, 1987:DOT announced that within the current week it would begin random urinalysis testing to detect drug abuse among departmental employees in jobs directly affecting safety and security. (FAA already had a drug testing program for such employees, but it did not involve random tests: see August 16, 1985.) DOT’s initiative was the first such program to be implemented department-wide under President Reagan’s Executive Order of September 15, 1986, calling for a drug-free Federal workplace. (See November 21, 1988.)
Monday, September 21, 1987:Administrator McArtor announced that FAA would begin a special inspection of the U.S. aircraft manufacturing industry to ensure that the companies were following proper procedures and had updated their techniques to keep up with technology (see July 27, 1987). On January 13, 1989, the agency completed these Operation Snapshot inspections of 88 manufacturers.
Sunday, September 27, 1987:California became the first state to ban smoking on all intrastate trips by airline, bus, or train. In addition, the bill required that at least 75 percent of the space in airports and public transit centers be set aside for nonsmokers. The bill became effective January 1, 1988. (See April 23, 1988.)
Thursday, October 1, 1987:Elizabeth Hanford Dole resigned as Secretary of Transportation and Deputy Secretary James H. Burnley became Acting Secretary. Before becoming Deputy Secretary, Burnley had been the Department’s General Counsel and had previously been an Associate Deputy Attorney General at the Justice Department. President Reagan nominated him for the top post at Transportation shortly after Dole’s resignation. On December 3, Burnley became Secretary of Transportation. He served the remainder of the Reagan Administration, resigning effective January 20, 1989.
Tuesday, October 20, 1987:Intercom announced that New England Region Director Robert Whittington had been designated Executive Director, a new position at FAA’s national headquarters. The departure of Deputy Administrator-designate Lawrence M. Hecker (see May 14, 1987) had created a void that the new position was intended to help fill. The new Executive Director, who reported to the Administrator, provided direction and guidance to the operating elements and to the regions and centers. The position was formally established by a directive issued on February 29, 1988. (See June 16, 1988.)
October 28-30, 1987:Administrator McArtor met a group of air traffic controllers in Atlanta in the first of a series of Employee Focus Group meetings, an approach to problem solving in which personnel in various specialties met directly with top managers.
Monday, November 9, 1987:FAA issued a major revision of its airport certification regulations for airports served by air carriers with aircraft having a seating capacity of more than 30 passengers. The new regulations, designed to improve safety standards, included: strengthening fuel handling and storage requirements; making airport tenants responsible for quality control of aircraft fueling operations; requiring that firefighting and rescue vehicles be equipped with two-way radios; mandating that at least one firefighting employee trained in emergency medical care be on duty during air carrier operations; and increasing restrictions on access of ground vehicle traffic to operational areas.
Sunday, November 15, 1987:A Continental Airlines DC-9 crashed on takeoff at Denver Stapleton airport, killing 28 of the 82 persons on board. The National Transportation Safety Board cited the probable cause of the crash as the captain’s failure to have the airplane deiced a second time after a delay before takeoff. Contributing factors listed by the Board included the absence of regulatory or management controls governing operations by newly qualified flightcrew members and the confusion that existed between the flightcrew and air traffic controllers that led to the delay in departure. (See December 12, 1985 and March 22, 1992.)
Monday, December 7, 1987:A Pacific Southwest BAe 146 jet crashed near Paso Robles, Calif., killing all 43 on board. Gunfire was heard on the cockpit recorder, and the authorities later determined that a vengeful former employee caused the crash. On December 21, FAA ordered all airlines operating at U.S. airports to screen all their employees entering secure areas with the same metal detectors and baggage x-ray equipment used for passengers.
Saturday, December 19, 1987:Effective this date, FAA required a positive baggage/passenger match on all international flights by U.S. airlines. FAA had placed the same requirement on selected international flights since the summer of 1985.
Wednesday, December 30, 1987:President Ronald Reagan signed the Airport and Airway Safety and Capacity Expansion Act, extending the authority for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) for an additional five years. The legislation authorized $1.7 billion each fiscal year through 1990 and $1.8 billion each year for fiscal years 1991 and 1992 (see November 5, 1990, and October 31, 1992). Other provisions of the act included: authorization for a State Block Grant Pilot Program (see November 24, 1976, and October 1, 1989); a requirement that ten percent of the funds available under AIP be expended with the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program; a redefinition of primary airports to include all airports emplaning more than 10,000 passengers annually; expenditures for soundproofing public schools and hospitals without a noise compatibility study; and establishment of a discretionary fund set-aside for projects to enhance system wide capacity, safety, security, and noise compatibility. The act increased the maximum civil penalty for each safety violation by an airline or other commercial operator from $1,000 to $10,000. The legislation also authorized a two-year civil penalty demonstration program, which began on this day, permitting FAA to adjudicate civil penalty cases not to exceed $50,000. Subsequent legislation granted the program two extensions, ending on July 31, 1990 (see April 13, 1990).
Thursday, December 31, 1987:At the end of this day, FAA completed its phased ban on all large transport and turbojet aircraft at the Phase I noise level, with the exception of non-revenue flights permitted under certain circumstances through the end of 1989. (See February 18, 1980, and November 5, 1990.)
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.