FAA History: 1989

Tuesday, January 3, 1989: As part of a series of security measures following the Lockerbie bombing (see December 21, 1988), the Federal Aviation Administration issued a rule requiring airport operators to supplement their procedures for limiting entry into secure areas by installing a computer-controlled access system, or a similar approved system. On March 13, FAA issued a rule requiring foreign air carriers that land or takeoff in the U.S. to submit a written security program to the agency. Two days later, the agency adopted a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for passengers trying to take guns through airport screening positions. On July 6, FAA issued a rule strengthening its system for providing security information to airlines by requiring compliance with prescribed countermeasures and making disclosure of information in security alerts a violation subject to penalty.
On September 5, FAA published a rule giving the agency authority to require airlines to install explosives detection systems (EDS) to screen passengers’ checked baggage for international flights, with about 40 U.S. and foreign airports targeted for initial implementation. Also on September 5, operational testing of the first of six FAA-funded Thermal Neutron Activation (TNA) explosive detection systems began at New York Kennedy airport (see November 7, 1988). Subsequently, operational demonstrations of TNA units were conducted at several other airports, but the devices were not adopted for permanent use.
Other security-related events during 1989 included the establishment on August 4 of the President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism to review security policy (see May 15, 1990). Effective on October 10, FAA established an Aviation Security Advisory Committee including representatives of 16 Federal agencies and aviation organizations. (See March 3, 1990.)
Tuesday, January 10, 1989:FAA published a rule requiring the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS II) on all airliners with more than 30 passenger seats operating in U.S. airspace (see March 18, 1987). The airlines were to phase in TCAS II by December 30, 1991. On April 9, 1990, however, FAA extended the TCAS II compliance schedule completion date to December 30, 1993 (an extension that also applied to wind shear warning equipment: see September 22, 1988). The January 10, 1989, rule also required turbine-powered commuter aircraft with 10 to 30 passenger seats to install the simpler TCAS I by February 9, 1995, a deadline later extended to December 31, 1995.
Thursday, January 12, 1989:FAA revised the pilot and equipment requirements for conducting operations in terminal control areas and established a single class of terminal control area (TCA) instead of the two classes which previously existed. (See August 31, 1986.) In addition, pilots needed at least a private certificate to fly in a TCA. Student pilots were permitted to conduct certain operations with specified training and logbook endorsements from a certified flight instructor except at 12 TCA primary airports, where student pilot operations were prohibited. In addition, helicopters operating within a TCA had to install a VOR or TACAN receiver by July 1, 1989.
Sunday, January 15, 1989:The Surface Movement Guidance and Control System (SMGCS), a red-and-green traffic light system for runways and taxiways, began a one-year test at New York Kennedy airport. The red lights, called “stop bars,” warned pilots not to enter runways until controllers issued clearance and switched on green lights leading to the runway center line. An improved version received further testing at Kennedy during 1991, and on December 10, 1992, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport became a demonstration airport for the first FAA-approved stop bar system. Seattle’s system, developed by the Port of Seattle’s airport management team, FAA, and airport users, served as the prototype for development of national standards for low visibility operations under FAA’s Runway Incursion Plan. (See February 7, 1991.) On June 1, 1993, Hartsfield-Atlanta International Airport became the second airport in the Untied States to begin using the SMGCS plan.
Friday, January 20, 1989:George Bush became President, succeeding Ronald Reagan.
Tuesday, January 24, 1989:FAA Administrator T. Allan McArtor reestablished the Administrator’s Executive Committee, or EXCOM (see February 5, 1973). The four executive directors and the general counsel made up the membership of the reconstituted committee, with the Executive Director for Policy, Plans, and Resource Management serving as permanent chair. The committee’s primary function was to review and evaluate the recommendations of the Administrator’s Review Committee on the budget, policy, and other critical issues. The EXCOM was replaced on November 24, 1989, by the Executive Board. The Deputy Administrator served as the permanent chair of the board, with the Executive Director for Policy, Plans, and Resource Management serving as alternate chair. (See March 10, 1994.)
Monday, January 30, 1989:Effective this date, FAA established a Research, Engineering, and Development Advisory Committee.
Monday, February 6, 1989:Samuel K. Skinner became Secretary of Transportation, succeeding James H. Burnley with the change of administrations. A lawyer from Illinois, Skinner had been chairman of a regional transportation authority and had managed the Bush Presidential campaign in the state. He served as Secretary until becoming President Bush’s chief of staff on December 16, 1991.
Wednesday, February 8, 1989:A Boeing 707 crashed into a fog-shrouded mountain on the Azores island of Santa Maria with the loss of all 144 persons aboard. The small U.S. charter company Independent Air had operated the aircraft.
Friday, February 10, 1989:FAA issued a new rule upgrading the fire safety standards for baggage and cargo compartments in existing airline aircraft. The new standards required that all cargo compartments larger than 200 cubic feet that were inaccessible to crewmembers in flight be lined with rigid fiberglass or comparable materials on their sidewalls and ceilings to more effectively resist the spread of fire. The airlines had two years from the effective date of the new regulation to comply. (See May 16, 1986, and November 14, 1996.)
Friday, February 17, 1989:Effective this date, T. Allan McArtor resigned as FAA Administrator. The post of Acting Administrator was filled by Robert Whittington, whose regular position was now Executive Director for Policy, Plans, and Resource Management. (See June 30, 1989.)
Tuesday, February 28, 1989:FAA’s first operational Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) began service, and the agency had installed 50 more by the end of September 1990. AWOS equipment automatically gathered weather data from various locations around an airport and transmitted that information directly to pilots by means of computer-generated voice message (see January 26, 1983). In cooperation with the National Weather Service, FAA also pursued a program to acquire Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) equipment, which offered additional precipitation sensing capabilities. The agency began ASOS installation in August 1991, and had commissioned over 60 by April 1996.
Saturday, March 4, 1989:Upon the expiration of a Federally imposed cooling-off period, the union representing Eastern’s machinists went on strike, supported by large numbers of the airline’s pilots and flight attendants. Approximately ninety percent of Eastern’s planes were grounded. The airline’s attempt legally to force pilots back to work failed on March 7, when a Federal judge ruled that the pilots could continue their sympathy strike. On March 9, Eastern filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code. On November 21, President Bush vetoed legislation which would have set up a commission to investigate the dispute between Eastern’s unions and its management. The next day, leaders of the pilot union voted to end their strike, and on November 23 the flight attendant union also told its members to return to work. The machinists’ strike continued. (See June 2, 1988, and April 18, 1990.)
Wednesday, March 22, 1989:Fire consumed one of the mobile lounges used at Dulles International Airport to transport passengers from the terminal to aircraft, injuring two passengers. The day before the fire, a ramp worker at Dulles had been crushed to death under the wheels of a lounge. As a result of the accidents, airport officials on March 23 ordered maintenance inspections on all mobile lounges and retraining courses for all lounge drivers.
Friday, March 31, 1989:The Acquisition and Materiel Service was retitled the Logistics Service, its name prior to October 29, 1982. (See September 30, 1991.)
Friday, March 31, 1989:The U.S. licensed commercial space industry made its first launch when Space Service, Inc., sent a scientific payload on a suborbital trip aboard a Starfire rocket. Later in 1989, the first U.S. licensed commercial orbital launch was successfully carried out on August 27 by the McDonnell Douglas corporation, using a Delta I launch vehicle.
Thursday, April 6, 1989:In Lebanon, NH, FAA commissioned the first permanent, Federally funded Microwave Landing System (MLS) at a commercial airport. The Hazeltine Corporation had delivered the system to the agency under a contract for 178 MLS units. On August 7, 1989, however, FAA notified Hazeltine that it was terminating the contract because of the company’s failure to meet the specified delivery schedule. (See May 20, 1987, and December 6, 1989.)
Monday, May 1, 1989:FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) concluded their first labor agreement. (Signing on behalf of the union was R. Steve Bell, who had been elected president in 1988.) Negotiators had reached a tentative agreement in January, and union members ratified the contract on April 18. (See June 19, 1987, and August 1, 1993.)
Tuesday, May 2, 1989:FAA commissioned the first operational ASR-9 airport surveillance radar (see September 30, 1983). The new radar employed advanced Doppler technology to filter out radar reflection, and was capable of detecting a one square meter target at a distance of 60 nautical miles. FAA planned to equip every major airport with an ASR-9, and 121 of them had been commissioned by the end of FY 1996. With the introduction of the ASR-9 radars, the older ASR-7 and -8 units would be used to replace aged ASR-4 and -5 radars.
Friday, May 5, 1989:FAA’s National Data Interchange Network 1A (NADIN 1A) became fully operational, supplanting several independent communications networks with a single, efficient means of transmitting weather and flight plan data. The agency had originally contracted for the system in November 1980. On March 31, 1995, FAA commissioned an upgraded version designated NADIN II.
Wednesday, June 7, 1989:New York real estate developer Donald Trump acquired Eastern Air Lines’ shuttle operation between Washington, New York, and Boston, and began service under the name Trump Shuttle the next day. The venture proved unprofitable, however, and on April 12, 1992, USAir began operating the renamed USAir Shuttle under a management contract with a group of banks.
Friday, June 16, 1989:FAA issued a rule limiting the distance between emergency exits on transport category planes to no more than 60 feet. The rule applied to all new transport planes certificated after July 23 and to all newly manufactured airplanes of older type designs produced after October 16, 1987. It also prevented modifications, such as deactivation of exits, to increase the distance between exits to more than the 60 foot standard.
Sunday, June 18, 1989:FAA implemented a five-year Pay Demonstration Project to provide a quarterly retention/recruitment allowance of up to 20 percent of base pay. The project covered approximately 2,100 air traffic, flight standards, and airway facilities personnel working at 11 hard-to-staff facilities in the New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Oakland areas. (See May 26, 1994.)
Friday, June 30, 1989:FAA broke ground for its new high technology training complex in Oklahoma City, named for General Thomas P. Stafford, an astronaut. The agency dedicated the building’s tower cab simulation laboratory on January 25, 1991, then marked the full opening of the Stafford Building with a ceremony on March 11, 1992.
Friday, June 30, 1989:Admiral James B. Busey (USN, Ret.) became FAA’s eleventh Administrator, succeeding T. Allan McArtor (see July 22, 1987). Busey took the oath a second time in a public ceremony on July 11. The new Administrator had been on active duty with the Navy when President Bush announced his selection on March 17. He retired from the Navy in May, and the Senate confirmed his nomination on June 23. Enactment of Public Law 101-47 exempted him from the legal provision barring active or retired military officers from becoming FAA Administrator. Born in 1932 in Peoria, Ill., Busey attended the University of Illinois in Urbana, and received a B.S. and master’s in management from the Navy Postgraduate School. During a 37-year career with the Navy, Busey rose from enlisted ranks to become a full admiral. An experienced pilot and a winner of the Navy Cross for combat action in Vietnam, he served as commander of the Naval Aviation System Command while a vice admiral. Busey’s other positions included Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Auditor General of the Navy, and Deputy Chief of Naval Materiel, Resource Management. Prior to becoming FAA Administrator, Busey served for two years as Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces in Southern Europe, a NATO command. He held the post of FAA Administrator for one year and five months. (See November 20, 1991.)
Wednesday, July 19, 1989:A United Airlines DC-10 crashed while attempting an emergency landing in Sioux City, Iowa, after debris from a failed engine damaged the aircraft’s control system. The accident killed 110 of the 296 people on board. On August 3, FAA announced the formation of an agency/industry task force on improving aircraft survivability following major in-flight structural damage (see, June 5, 1990). Preliminary investigation of the accident indicated that one of the two titanium disks holding the engine’s fan blades separated, either intact or in fragments, from the rest of the engine. On September 15, FAA issued the first of several directives requiring fan disk inspections. In its final report on the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board listed the probable cause as the failure of the airline’s engine overhaul facility to detect a fatigue crack in the fan disk, a failure the Board attributed to inadequate consideration of human factors limitations.
Thursday, August 24, 1989:FAA established the Charlotte, N.C. terminal control area (TCA), the first new TCA since 1980 (see May 15, 1980). Additional TCAs were established at: Memphis, October 19, 1989; Salt Lake City, November 16, 1989; Phoenix, January 11, 1990; Orlando and Tampa, September 20, 1990; and the Washington Tri-Area (which superceded the Washington TCA and encompassed Andrews AFB, and the Washington National, Dulles International, and Baltimore-Washington airports), March 7, 1991. This brought the total of TCAs to 29. (See December 17, 1991.)
Thursday, August 31, 1989:FAA established the new pilot category of recreational pilot, requiring less training than a private pilot certificate. The agency intended the new category for pilots interested in flying basic, experimental, or homebuilt aircraft in close proximity to a home airport in which communication with air traffic control facilities was not required. At the same time, FAA established a required annual flight review for non-instrument-rated private pilots with less than 400 flight hours.
Sunday, September 17, 1989:Hurricane Hugo slammed into the U.S. Virgin Islands before moving on to Puerto Rico and then South Carolina. Numerous FAA facilities in the storm’s path suffered damage and service interruption. Destruction was especially heavy in the Virgin Islands, where two airport towers were badly damaged and a radar destroyed. Southern Region Headquarters took charge of the recovery effort, which included establishment of temporary mobile towers on the islands. The agency’s DC-9 carried relief supplies to the Virgin Islands and evacuated four FAA employees and 35 dependents, as well as other Federal personnel and their families. Damage to FAA facilities on the mainland was less severe than in the Caribbean, although many employees suffered personal losses. Agency personnel established a relief fund to assist their coworkers affected by the storm. By the end of September most airports in the devastated areas had resumed operation.
Thursday, September 28, 1989:Braniff again filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, and ceased all passenger operations on November 6. The company had previously suspended operations during 1982, but later resumed flights. (See March 1, 1984 and July 1, 1991).
Sunday, October 1, 1989:A State Block Grant Pilot Program began on this date, as legislated by Congress (see December 30, 1987). Under the program, scheduled to run through September 30, 1991, FAA selected Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina to administer Federal grants for the development of nonprimary airports within their borders. Congress subsequently extended the program for one additional year under the Aviation Safety and Capacity Expansion Act of 1990. (See June 29, 1992.)
Monday, October 2, 1989:A directive issued on this date restructured the organization of the Associate Administrator for Air Traffic (see September 15, 1984) by abolishing the Office of Air Traffic Evaluations and Analysis and establishing a new Office of Air Traffic System Effectiveness. On February 22, 1990, another directive added an Office of Air Traffic Program Management. A further change came on July 3, 1990, with the abolition of the Air Traffic Operations Service and establishment of the Air Traffic Rules and Procedures Service and the Office of Air Traffic System Management. (See November 30, 1994.)
Tuesday, October 17, 1989:An earthquake, registering 7.1 on the Richter scale, shook northern California, damaging runways, disrupting airline service, and causing approximately $50 million damage to FAA facilities and equipment. Among the affected facilities were the San Francisco tower cab, which lost windows and its ceiling, and the San Jose tower, which lost a window and air conditioning unit; controllers nevertheless remained on duty to ensure the safety of flights aloft. FAA subsequently allocated $8 million in discretionary airport improvement funds for partial reconstruction of a runway at Oakland.
Friday, October 20, 1989:FAA issued a rule requiring newly built air transport aircraft to have public address systems with an independent power source to increase safety during emergency evacuation. (See July 27, 1973.)
Friday, October 27, 1989:FAA published a rule improving type certification standards for transport category rotorcraft by adding requirements for “flaw tolerance,” a design concept aimed at ensuring that failure of a part does not cause an accident, and by extending requirements for structural fatigue evaluations.
Wednesday, December 6, 1989:FAA issued a precision approach landing systems policy, outlining how it planned to transition from the Instrument Landing System (ILS) to the Microwave Landing system (MLS). An international agreement obligated the agency to provide MLS service at all U.S. international runways by January 1, 1998. Until that date, FAA determined to install new ILS’s only at those locations that had an immediate and critical requirement for precision approach service that could not be delayed until MLS deployment. (See April 6, 1989, and June 21, 1991.)
Thursday, December 14, 1989:Alaska’s Redoubt Volcano began a series of eruptions, emitting ash that hampered aviation. FAA used a satellite-based system, recently developed with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to track the ash and warn aviators. On December 15, however, a Boeing 747 lost all engine thrust temporarily after encountering an ash cloud, and ash from Redoubt damaged four other airliners during the following three months. (See May 18, 1980, and June 15, 1991.)
Thursday, December 14, 1989:FAA authorized use of the Oceanic Display and Planning System (ODAPS) at the Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center (see October 1984). ODAPS achieved initial operational capability at the New York center during FY92. (See October 1984 and June 21, 1995.)
Thursday, December 14, 1989:Alliance Airport, the nation’s first industrial airport, officially opened. Located fifteen miles northwest of Dallas-Fort Worth airport, the new facility incorporated air, rail, and highway connections. FAA grants provided major funding for construction of the airport, which stood on land donated by industrialist Ross Perot, Jr.
Thursday, December 21, 1989:DOT awarded AT&T a contract under the Office Automation Technology and Services (OATS) program to replace many computer brands and software packages throughout the Department with a standardized system for desktop automation. FAA, the lead agency for OATS, observed the coming of the new system with a ceremony at headquarters on February 20, 1990.
Tuesday, December 26, 1989:DOT announced the creation of the Airport Capacity Funding Advisory Committee, formed at the behest of Congress to recommend new approaches to funding airport capacity projects. The Secretary of Transportation selected representatives from the airlines and airports to serve on the board, which reported to the Secretary through FAA. On April 19, 1990, the committee’s report made recommendations concerning the design of possible Passenger Facility Charges, should these be authorized by legislation (see 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.