FAA History: 1988

January 1988:FAA commissioned its first expanded network version of the Low Level Wind Shear Alert System (LLWAS) at Denver Stapleton airport (see August 2, 1985). A second of the expanded-network systems was commissioned at New Orleans in November 1988. In addition, the agency continued upgrading the standard six-sensor LLWAS units to a version with full microburst detection capability and other improved features. On October 11, 1991, a ceremony at Lexington, Ky., marked the completion of this upgraded LLWAS at all 110 airports designated to receive it.
Friday, February 5, 1988:Effective this date, FAA issued the first noise certification standards for new helicopter types and banned modifications to current helicopters types that would increase noise levels.
Monday, February 8, 1988:FAA announced that it had retired airplane registration number N16020, used by Amelia Earhart when she disappeared on a flight over the Pacific Ocean (see July 2, 1937). The number had been recently held by Continental Air Lines, which had agreed to its retirement.
Wednesday, March 9, 1988:Secretary of Transportation James H. Burnley announced the creation of a Secretary’s Task Force on Internal Reforms of the FAA, co-chaired by FAA Administrator McArtor and DOT’s Assistant Secretary for Administration. The task force was charged with examining ways to eliminate marginal, non-safety expenditures and to improve the procurement process. It was instructed to place a high priority on reviewing FAA’s regional structure, which Burnley described as outdated and a cause of inconsistency in interpreting national standards. On April 28, DOT and FAA announced that the task force’s recommendations would include a variety of improvements in practices and procedures, including “straight-lining” of reporting relationships. Under this arrangement, regional division managers in key programs would report to Associate Administrators at national headquarters rather than to the Regional Directors. (See September 15, 1984, and June 16, 1988.)
Thursday, March 10, 1988:Effective this date, FAA established a special flight route through the Los Angeles terminal control area (TCA) to accommodate general aviation aircraft wishing to transit the area. The action allowed small aircraft operating under visual flight rules (VFR) and carrying a Mode C transponder to follow the designated route through the TCA without the prior approval of Los Angeles approach control. The corridor was similar to one that had been closed effective August 19, 1987 (see that date).
Wednesday, March 16, 1988:Effective this date, FAA included free-standing heliports in regulations on airport noise compatibility planning that had previously applied only to heliports on public airports used by fixed-wing aircraft. When their plans were approved, the free-standing heliports would be eligible to apply for benefits under the Airport Improvement Program.
Friday, April 1, 1988:Barbara McConnell Barrett became FAA’s Deputy Administrator, succeeding Richard H. Jones (see December 13, 1984). A previous nominee, Lawrence M. Hecker, had withdrawn in September (see May 14, 1987). Born in Indiana County, Pa., Barrett earned three degrees from Arizona State University (B.S., 1972; M.B.A, 1975; J.D., 1978). She held positions with Greyhound Corp. and Southwest Forest Industries, Inc., and in 1982 became Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board. Barrett served as the Board’s Vice Chairman, 1983-84. She then practiced law as a partner at the firm of Evans, Kitchel, and Jenckes in Phoenix, Ariz., until becoming the first woman to occupy the FAA’s Deputy position. Barrett served the remainder of the Reagan Administration, and resigned effective January 20, 1989. (See March 12, 1990.)
Tuesday, April 5, 1988:FAA decommissioned the last radar bright display equipment being used at a domestic air route traffic control center when it shut down the unit at the Los Angeles Center. (See April 27, 1960.) On the same day, FAA terminated the last broadband radar service, when it stopped that service at the Paso Robles, Calif., long-range radar facility. FAA had gradually replaced the broadband with the Direct Access Radar Channel (see February 2, 1981).
Friday, April 15, 1988:Effective this date, FAA required large air carriers to report each failure, malfunction, or defect of their emergency evacuation systems and components.
Saturday, April 23, 1988:Effective this date, FAA placed a two-year ban on smoking on all domestic scheduled airline flights of two hours or less. The rule, published ten days previously, responded to legislation that had been enacted in December 1987. The same legislation also imposed a $2,000 fine for tampering with smoke detectors in airliner lavatories, and FAA’s rule required the posting of signs warning passengers of this penalty. (See August 13, 1986, and February 25, 1990.)
Thursday, April 28, 1988:An 18-foot gap opened in flight in the fuselage of a Boeing 737 operated by Aloha Airlines. Decompression swept a flight attendant through the opening, and 8 other persons were seriously injured. The plane made an emergency landing on the Hawaian island of Maui. In the immediate aftermath of the accident, FAA ordered inspections of 737-100 and 737-200 jets logging more than 55,000 landings and restricted those planes to 23,000-foot altitude until inspected. On May 23, 1989, the National Transportation Safety Board cited the probable cause of the accident as the Aloha maintenance program’s failure to detect disbonding and fatigue damage. Contributory factors listed included Aloha management failings, FAA regulatory deficiencies, and Boeing’s failure to ensure correction of certain 737 construction problems. The near disaster aboard the high-service, 19-year-old Aloha plane focused attention on the issue of the airworthiness of aging airliners. (See May 6, 1981, and June 1, 1988.)
Sunday, May 8, 1988:A fire at an Illinois Bell Telephone Co. switching center drastically limited communications between the towers at Chicago’s Midway and O’Hare airports, the Aurora air route traffic control center, and aircraft. The 56 hour outage resulted in major air traffic delays throughout the country (see January 4, 1991.)
Tuesday, May 17, 1988:Voters in Colorado approved a measure that allowed the city of Denver to annex land for a new airport, which would occupy 45 square miles. One year later, on May 16, 1989, the voters approved a referendum authorizing construction of the facility, which would be the country’s first new major airport since Dallas-Fort Worth opened in 1974. FAA approved a $60 million grant for construction on September 27, 1989, and site preparation began the following day. Construction officially started on November 22, 1989. FAA announced it had approved an additional grant of $90 million on March 27, 1990, and on April 29, 1992, approved the collection of passenger facility charges at Stapleton International Airport to help finance construction of the new facility. The airport was originally scheduled to open in October 1993, but encountered a series of delays due to difficulties that included problems with the baggage handling system. (See February 28, 1995.)
Wednesday, June 1, 1988:FAA opened a three-day international conference on the problems of aging airliners attended by more than 400 participants. Concerns about the continued airworthiness of the many high-service aircraft in the air carrier fleet had been heightened by a recent accident (see April 28, 1988). The gathering led to the establishment of a government-industry task force on the issue, and to FAA actions that included: increased research and development in the aging aircraft field; acquisition of expertise in non-destructive inspection techniques; consideration of new structural inspection programs for older commuter aircraft; the use of FAA teams to monitor maintenance checks on older aircraft; and rulemaking projects aimed at improving the safety of high-service airliners (see March 7, 1990). The conference became the first in a series of such meetings.
Thursday, June 2, 1988:After a six week review of Texas Air Corp. and its subsidiaries, Eastern and Continental Airlines, Secretary of Transportation James Burnley announced that the airlines were currently operating safely. He noted however, that labor-management hostility at Eastern was at an unprecedented level. To prevent this tension from threatening Eastern’s future safety, Burnley had asked former Secretary of Labor William E. Brock to mediate the situation. (See March 4, 1989.)
Tuesday, June 14, 1988:FAA issued its first certificate to a major all-composite aircraft, the Beech Starship, a business-class turboprop seating between seven and ten.
Thursday, June 16, 1988:Administrator McArtor announced a reorganization of FAA’s senior management structure, building upon recommendations by the Secretary’s Task Force on Internal FAA Reform (see March 9, 1988). The reorganization’s aims were to: improve communications, coordination, and management oversight of FAA’s technical modernization and other activities; reduce unnecessary reporting relationships; and allow Washington headquarters to handle increased authority over field operations. Effective July 1, 1988, FAA increased the number of Executive Director positions from one to four (see October 20, 1987, and February 21, 1990). The Executive Directors reported directly to the Administrator, and most of the agency’s functions were consolidated under them. As described in a new directive issued on February 6, 1989, the four Executive Directors were responsible for the following organizational elements: (1) Executive Director for Policy, Plans, and Resource Management (the new title of the former single Executive Director position). Reporting to this position were the: (a) Associate Administrator for Policy, Planning, and International Aviation (responsible for the Europe, Africa, and Middle East Office and three other Offices: International Aviation; Aviation Policy and Plans; and Environment, later redesignated Environment and Energy); (b) Associate Administrator for Human Resource Management (responsible for four Offices: Human Resource Development; Labor and Employee Relations; Personnel; and Training and Higher Education); (c) Associate Administrator for Administration (responsible for the Acquisition and Materiel Service and three Offices: Accounting; Budget; and Management Systems); (d) Regional Directors, now retitled Regional Administrators to reflect their role as representatives of the Administrator; and the (e) Director, Aeronautical Center. (2) Executive Director for Systems Operations, to whom reported the: (a) Associate Administrator for Air Traffic (responsible for the Office of Air Traffic Evaluations and Analysis and two Services: Air Traffic Plans and Requirements; and Air Traffic Operations); (b) Associate Administrator for Airway Facilities (responsible for two Services: Program Engineering and Systems Maintenance); (c) Director of Operations Planning and Policy; and the (d) Director of Operations Resource Management. (3) Executive Director for Regulatory Standards and Compliance, to whom reported the: (a) Associate Administrator for Regulation and Certification (responsible for the Office of Rulemaking and two Services: Aircraft Certification and Flight Standards); (b) Associate Administrator for Aviation Standards (responsible for the Aviation Standards National Field Office and three other Offices: Aviation Medicine; Civil Aviation Security; and Accident Investigation); and the (c) Director of Program and Resource Management. (4) Executive Director for System Development, to whom reported the: (a) Associate Administrator for Advanced Design and Management Control (responsible for the Operations Research Office and two Services: Advanced System Design; and Management Control) (b) Associate Administrator for NAS (National Airspace System) Development (responsible for the System Engineering and Program Management Office and three Services: Automation; Advanced System Acquisition; and NAS Transition); (c) Associate Administrator for Airports (responsible for the Airport Capacity Program Office and two other Offices: Airport Planning and Programming; and Airport Standards); and the (d) Director, FAA Technical Center. In addition to the Executive Directors, the positions reporting to the Administrator were: the former Director, Aviation Safety, now re-titled an Associate Administrator (responsible for two Offices: Aviation Safety Analysis and Aviation Safety Oversight); the Chief Counsel; and three Assistant Administrators for: Public Affairs, Civil Rights; and Government and Industry Affairs. Also effective on July 1, 1988, FAA implemented a straightline reporting system under which regional division program managers in the following functions reported to Associate Administrators at national headquarters instead of to the former Regional Directors: air traffic, airway facilities, aircraft certification, flight standards, civil aviation security, medical, and airports. Under the new arrangement, the Regional and Center Counsels also reported to the Chief Counsel.
Thursday, June 16, 1988:Administrator McArtor announced a five point program to assist development of tiltrotor aviation, including: (1) negotiations with the Defense Department for FAA access to engineering and test data; (2) accelerated efforts in such areas as tiltrotor airspace review, criteria for flight tests and pilot training, and final aircraft certification standards; (3) establishment of a tiltrotor program organization that reported to the Administrator during McArtor’s tenure; (4) expanded research and development; and (5) stepped-up planning and development of vertiports.
Tuesday, June 21, 1988:FAA published a rule setting new requirements for aircraft to carry the Mode C transponder, an altitude-reporting radar beacon (see January 29, 1987). Effective July 1, 1989, the rule mandated Mode C carriage en route above 10,000 feet, instead of the 12,500 feet previously specified. With certain exclusions, the rule also required aircraft to carry and operate Mode C transponders within 30 miles of a primary airport in terminal control areas (TCAs). (On December 5, 1990, however, FAA suspended certain aspects of this provision, thus allowing aircraft without Mode C to have access to about 300 specified outlying airports within 30 miles of a TCA primary airport.) In addition, the rule required Mode C in Airport Radar Service Areas (ARSAs), effective December 30, 1990.
Thursday, June 30, 1988:In response to legislation, FAA issued a rule expanding requirements for Flight Data Recorders (FDRs) and Cockpit Voice Recorders (CVRs), with compliance by October 11, 1991. The rule required CVRs on all multi-engine, turbine-powered commuter and air taxi aircraft that were able to seat six or more persons and were required to have a two-pilot crew. It mandated FDRs on certain existing and newly manufactured large commuter aircraft. The rule also required large air carriers to upgrade FDRs in certain aircraft possessing the digital capability to accommodate more advanced devices. In addition, the rule contained CVR/FDR requirements for certain general aviation aircraft with multiple turbine engines. (See July 16, 1996.)
Sunday, July 3, 1988:U.S.S. Vincennes mistakenly shot down an Iran Air A-300 Airbus over the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 persons aboard. The Navy ship fired two missiles, seven minutes after the flight took off from Bandar Abbas. Before firing, Vincennes had sent electronic identification requests and voice warnings to the plane over civilian and military radio channels.
Tuesday, July 26, 1988:FAA announced it had awarded IBM a $3.55 billion contract to develop, deploy, and service the Advanced Automation System (AAS). The announcement ended almost four years of competition between IBM and Hughes Aircraft Corp. (See July 26, 1985, and October 1, 1991.)
Friday, August 5, 1988:FAA created a new general aviation staff to improve liaison between the agency and private and business flyers. The new staff, which operated within the Office of Flight Standards, was later abolished on October 13, 1992, and its functions assigned to the General Aviation and Commercial Division.
Monday, August 8, 1988:FAA began System Safety and Efficiency Reviews (SSERs), programs in which interdisciplinary teams from the agency, other public officials, and industry conducted thorough evaluations of all activities that affected aviation safety in and near a facility. The investigations included air traffic control towers and centers, flight service stations, airway facilities, aviation security, and inspector functions. The first SSER began at Chicago O’Hare airport.
Tuesday, August 23, 1988:United Airlines became the first major U.S. carrier to get Operations Specifications produced by a new automated FAA system designed to increase standardization. With the new system, FAA assumed responsibility for initial preparation of the “Ops Specs,” which spelled out in detail the rules that an airline must follow to comply with safety requirements. Previously, the carriers had prepared the document and submitted it to FAA for approval.
Thursday, August 25, 1988:FAA published a rule further upgrading fire safety standards for cabin interiors in transport aircraft by establishing refined fire test procedures and apparatus as well as a new requirement for smoke emission testing. The agency expected that the new flammability standards would also lessen the problem of toxic gas release during fire. FAA prescribed a phased compliance schedule for new and existing aircraft. The rule was based on a continuing research program recommended by the SAFER committee. (See July 21, 1986.)
Thursday, August 25, 1988:FAA announced changes to the Expanded East Coast Plan because of numerous complaints of increased noise by New Jersey residents. Changes to the EECP included rerouting Newark westbound departures from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. (See February 12, 1987, and March 11, 1991.)
Wednesday, August 31, 1988:A Delta Airlines Boeing 727 crashed on takeoff at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, killing 13 of the 108 on board. The National Transportation Safety Board listed the probable cause of the accident as inadequate cockpit discipline resulting in an attempt to takeoff without the wing flaps and slats properly configured, and a failure in the warning takeoff system. As a contributory factors, the Board cited: Delta’s slow implementation of safety steps necessitated by the airline’s rapid growth; a lack of accountability in FAA’s inspection process; and insufficiently aggressive action by the agency to correct known deficiencies at Delta, which had been the subject of a special inspection in 1987 following a series of incidents. FAA’s response to the Board’s recommendations included certain actions concerning inspections, required modifications to the 727 takeoff warning system, and a variety of other measures.
August 1988:FAA began a test and demonstration of the Precision Runway Monitor (PRM) at the Memphis airport, followed in May 1989 by a year-long test at the Raleigh-Durham airport. The radar greatly reduced the update rate of aircraft movements as depicted on an air traffic control screen. The demonstration proved successful, determining that the new radar, in conjunction with automated alarms and high-resolution color displays, helped controllers prevent or resolve aircraft conflicts in the airspace between closely spaced parallel and converging runways. On April 15, 1992, FAA announced award of a contract to the Bendix Division of Allied-Signal Aerospace Co. for five Precision Runway Monitoring radars. The following year, on July 20, 1993, FAA commissioned the first PRM in the United States at Raleigh/Durham.
Thursday, September 22, 1988:FAA issued a rule requiring that all turbine-powered airliners seating 30 passengers or more carry equipment to warn pilots when they encounter low-altitude wind shear and provide them with information needed to escape safely (see October 9, 1986). The rule also mandated wind shear training for flight crewmembers. FAA allowed until January 2, 1991, to complete the training requirements and permitted the airlines to phase in the equipment in accordance with an approved schedule by January 4, 1993. On April 9, 1990, the agency published rule extending this deadline to December 30, 1993, making certain exemptions for older aircraft, and allowing the substitution of more advanced “predictive” warning systems when available.
Monday, October 3, 1988:Citing increasing congestion and a rash of air traffic control operation errors, FAA indefinitely reduced the maximum number of arrivals permitted at Chicago O’Hare from 96 an hour to 80.
Wednesday, November 2, 1988:FAA announced it had awarded a contract to Raytheon for 47 Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR) systems which would be able to warn of hazardous wind shear conditions and microbursts. The contract followed operational evaluation of a TDWR at Denver Stapleton airport, and further operational evaluations of test units continued. (See August 2, 1985, and July 2, 1994.)
Wednesday, November 2, 1988:An FAA Jet Commander 21 crashed near Latrobe, Pa., after both engines lost power. The accident claimed the lives of all three personnel aboard.
Thursday, November 3, 1988:The Aviation Safety Research Act broadened FAA’s role in aircraft-related research, which had previously focused on testing and developing existing devices and materials. The act authorized the agency to develop new technologies and conduct data analyses in such fields as the effects of wear and fatigue on aircraft structures, aircraft maintenance, materials resistant to smoke and fire, low flammability fuels, and methods of containing in-flight and post-crash fires. (See November 5, 1990 and May 6, 1996.)
Monday, November 7, 1988:FAA announced award of a contract for five operational models of a new Thermal Neutron Activation (TNA) explosives detection system. The TNA device measured the gamma rays produced by energy neutrons passed through luggage and cargo and triggered an alarm when components of explosives were detected. FAA had first become involved in TNA research in 1976 in the wake of the LaGuardia bombing (see December 29, 1975). After testing a “breadboard” TNA device at several airports, the agency awarded competitive design contracts in September 1985 and began testing a prototype system at San Francisco airport in June 1987. (See December 29, 1988.)
Friday, November 18, 1988:After receiving information eight days earlier from West German authorities, FAA issued an aviation security bulletin, describing a cassette recorder containing a barometric detonating device that could be set to explode when an airliner reached a certain altitude. Such a device had been discovered by German authorities in an October 26 anti-terrorist sweep. On December 7, FAA issued another bulletin to airlines advising them of a telephone warning that had been received December 5 by the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki. The anonymous caller claimed that a bomb was to be placed aboard a Pan Am plane in Frankfurt. (See December 21, 1988.)
Monday, November 21, 1988:DOT published an interim rule on testing procedures for a series of new rules requiring employers in the transportation sector to have an anti-drug program for personnel with responsibilities affecting safety or security. The programs generally included five kinds of drug-abuse testing: pre-employment, random, periodic, post-accident, and for reasonable cause. (DOT had already established a similar program for its own employees: see September 9, 1987.) Also on November 21, FAA published a rule applying the DOT testing guidelines to the aviation industry by requiring an anti-drug program for domestic and supplemental air carriers, air taxi and commuter operators, certain commercial operators, certain contractors, and air traffic control facilities not operated by FAA or the U.S. military. (Subsequent amendments to this rule included an exemption for some types of operations, such as student instruction.) DOT published a final rule on testing procedures on December 1, 1989. The program began within the aviation industry on December 18, 1989, when large airlines and regionals with 51 or more employees began testing. (See July 10, 1990.)
Thursday, December 15, 1988:FAA issued a type certificate for the Airbus A-320. The aircraft had received its certification in Europe in February 1988. The A-320 was a short-to-medium range, twin turbo-fan transport with a seating capacity of 120-179 passengers. It was the first civilian transport to incorporate “fly-by-wire” controls for elevators, ailerons, spoilers, tail-plane trim, slats, flaps, and speed brakes.
Wednesday, December 21, 1988:An explosion destroyed Pan American World Airways Flight 103 near Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 persons aboard and 11 on the ground (see November 18, 1988). The Boeing 747 had been bound for New York Kennedy from London Heathrow. Investigators later discovered that the tragedy was the result of a bomb concealed inside a radio-cassette player that had been loaded into a forward luggage compartment in Frankfurt (see November 14, 1991). FAA quickly began an inspection of Pan American’s security procedures at Heathrow and Frankfurt airports, and later proposed $630,000 in civil penalties against the airline for alleged violations of security regulations. On December 29, FAA revealed new security measures to go into effect within 48 hours for U.S. carriers at all airports in Europe and the Middle East. These included requirements that the airlines x-ray or physically search all checked baggage, conduct additional random checks of passengers and baggage, and achieve a positive match of passengers and their baggage to keep unaccompanied bags off airplanes. FAA also ordered a sixth thermal neutron analysis (TNA) device (see November 7, 1988) and accelerated the TNA delivery schedule. (See January 3, 1989.)
Tuesday, December 27, 1988:A presidential proclamation extended U.S. territorial jurisdiction from three to twelve nautical miles from the nation’s coasts, and FAA at the same time extended certain controlled airspace and air traffic rules to coincide with the new limits.
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.