FAA History: 1990

Monday, January 8, 1990:The Department of Transportation officially opened TransExpo at the Sheraton Washington Hotel. The three-day exhibition, which attracted between 8,000 and 10,000 people, was the biggest U.S. transportation trade show since Transpo 72 (see May 27, 1972).
Wednesday, January 10, 1990:The McDonnell Douglas MD-11 first flew. A medium/long-range transport designed as a successor to the DC-10, the aircraft could seat up to 323 passengers in its standard passenger version. The MD-11 received Federal Aviation Administration certification on November 8 and first entered commercial service on December 20, 1990, with Finnair.
Thursday, January 18, 1990:On its landing roll at Atlanta Hartsfield airport, an Eastern Air Lines Boeing 727 collided with a Beechcraft King Air 100 that had landed just before it. The accident killed the pilot of the King Air, which was operated as a charter by Epps Air Service. FAA decertified the controller who cleared the Eastern flight to land. On April 2, 1991, the majority of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cited the controller’s error as the accident’s probable cause, while dissenting member Jim Burnett blamed inadequate separation standards. On May 29, 1991, NTSB announced a revised finding expanding the probable cause to include the failure of air traffic control procedures to take into consideration occasional lapses in human performance. Chairman James Kolstad dissented, saying that use of existing procedures could have prevented the accident.
Thursday, January 25, 1990:Attempting to land at New York Kennedy airport, a Boeing 707 operated by the Colombian airline Avianca ran out of fuel and crashed on Long Island, fatally injuring 73 of the 158 people on board. On February 25, demonstrators drove a procession of automobiles through Kennedy as a protest against air traffic controllers’ alleged mishandling of the flight. The National Transportation Safety Board cited the probable cause of the accident as the crew’s failure to manage their fuel load or alert controllers to their fuel emergency. Among the contributing factors, however, the Board pointed to a lack of clear, standardized terminology on fuel emergencies, as well as inadequate traffic flow management. FAA’s actions in response to the accident included steps to address these concerns and to stress the need for clear pilot/controller communication and for air carriers to be thoroughly familiar with rules and procedures.
Tuesday, January 30, 1990:The Department of Transportation (DOT) issued an order inviting applications from eligible foreign airlines wishing to serve U.S. cities having no single-plane service to the applicant’s home countries. On March 27, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines became the first of several carriers that received route awards under this program. During 1990, DOT announced agreements with a number of countries making possible expanded air service.
Tuesday, February 13, 1990:The Direct User Access Terminal Service (DUATS) began operating, allowing private pilots to receive weather briefings and file flight plans from home computers. An FAA contractor provided the service free to civilian pilots and students. DUATS took over most of the functions of the Interim Voice Response System (IVRS), which FAA discontinued on September 30, 1990. (See March 14, 1984.)
Friday, February 16, 1990:Representatives of FAA and the Soviet aviation ministry signed a memorandum promoting cooperation on air navigation between Alaska and the Soviet Far East.
Wednesday, February 21, 1990:Administrator Busey announced organizational changes that included establishment of an Executive Director for Acquisition, a move designed to streamline the agency’s procurement process. The action brought the number of Executive Directors to five (see June 16, 1988, and September 30, 1991). As documented in a directive issued on July 6, 1990, the newly created Executive Director controlled two new Offices: Acquisition Policy and Oversight; and Independent Operational Test and Evaluation Oversight. Other changes implemented by this directive included: conversion of two Associate Administrators (for Airports and for Policy, Planning, and International Aviation) to Assistant Administrators reporting directly to the Administrator; re-titling of the Executive Director for Policy, Plans, and Resource Management as the Executive Director for Administration and Resource Management; establishment under the Executive Director for System Operations of an Office of System Capacity and Requirements with functions including those of the former Airport Capacity Program Office; abolition of two Offices: Operations Resource Management and Operations Planning and Policy; establishment of a new Associate Administrator for System Engineering and Development to replace the Associate Administrator for Advanced Design and Management Control; and re-titling the Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety as an Assistant Administrator.
Sunday, February 25, 1990:In response to a congressional mandate, prohibition of smoking went into effect on virtually all scheduled U.S. domestic airline flights. Flights to or from Alaska or Hawaii scheduled to last six hours or more were excepted. The prohibition included foreign carriers operating between two points within U.S. territory. The ban did not apply to the flight deck. (See April 23, 1988, and May 7, 1996.)
Friday, March 2, 1990:FAA issued a final rule requiring air carriers to restrict seats in exit rows to persons capable of activating emergency exits and performing other emergency functions during evacuation. Carriers were given until October 5, 1990, to comply (see October 27, 1992). Also on March 2, the Department of Transportation issued a revised regulation prohibiting airline discrimination against disabled passengers. The rule required accommodation for wheelchairs and limited an airline’s ability to restrict the number of disabled persons on a flight or to require passengers to travel with an attendant. It also including a ban on seating restrictions for the disabled, except to comply with FAA’s safety rule.
Saturday, March 3, 1990:FAA assigned the first permanent Civil Aviation Security Liaison Officer (CASLO) overseas, marking the beginning of a program established as a result of the Pan American Flight 103 bombing. The first CASLO was stationed at the American Embassy in London. (See January 3, 1989, and May 15, 1990.)
Monday, March 5, 1990:FAA’s Administrator Busey announced a new policy on fostering compliance with FAA regulations by private pilots. He described a series of changes emphasizing communication and education rather than sanctions. Also in March, and as part of that program, Busey revoked the enforcement bulletin implementing a 60-day suspension of the certificate of any pilot who violated a Terminal Control Area (see October 10, 1986). Instead, inspectors were allowed to recommend lesser penalties and remedial training for the infraction.
Tuesday, March 6, 1990:FAA issued a rule requiring private aircraft flying into or out of the country through an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) to be equipped with altitude-reporting (Mode C) transponders by December 30. (See September 1, 1987.)
Tuesday, March 6, 1990:An SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft landed at Dulles International after a record-breaking 68 minute flight from the Pacific coast, and was then retired to the National Air and Space Museum collection.
Wednesday, March 7, 1990:FAA published three airworthiness directives requiring extensive structural modifications to older Boeing 727s, 737s, and 747s. The first in a series of directives dealing with older airliners, the rules reflected a new FAA approach adopted in 1988 (see June 1 of that year). To combat the hazard of structural deterioration, the agency had historically relied upon mandatory inspections that became more frequent as aircraft aged. Now, however, it required preventive modifications for high-service airliners and the replacement of certain parts after a specified number of flight hours or takeoff-and-landing cycles. FAA also asked for comments on a proposal to require corrosion control programs for certain aging Boeing aircraft. This requirement, which became effective on December 31, 1991, was also extended to other aircraft types.
Thursday, March 8, 1990:A three-man Northwest Airlines flight crew took off from Fargo, N.D., despite an FAA inspector’s warning that they might be in violation of a rule against flying an aircraft within eight hours of consuming alcohol. After their landing in Minneapolis, the three crewmembers were given tests that showed their blood alcohol exceeded the permissible level. FAA revoked the trio’s airman certificates the next day. As a result of this incident, FAA announced on March 14 a six-point action plan designed to tighten drug and alcohol enforcement investigation procedures. On August 20, a Federal jury in Minneapolis convicted the three men of a felony for operating a common carrier while under the influence of alcohol, and they received jail sentences in October. (See April 17, 1985.)
Monday, March 12, 1990:Barry L. Harris became FAA’s Deputy Administrator, succeeding Barbara McConnell Barrett (see April 1, 1988). President Bush had announced the nomination on November 6, 1989. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Harris attended Harvard and Denison Universities and served as an officer in the U.S. Army. His career included positions as assistant city manager for Gloucester, Mass., director of community programs for the Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and work as a writer and producer for the news media. Prior to joining FAA, he was president and chief executive of Alliance Corp., in Portland, Maine, and Community Services, Inc., in Gloucester. Harris had been cochairman of the Bush campaign’s state finance committee in Maine, and had served on the campaign’s national finance committee. He was an experienced pilot, qualified to fly helicopters as well as piston- and jet-powered fixed wing aircraft. Harris served as Acting Administrator during the period between the tenures of Administrators Busey and Richards (see December 4, 1991, and June 27, 1992). He remained as Deputy for the rest of the Bush Administration, resigning effective January 20, 1993.
Tuesday, March 27, 1990: In a speech to the Aero Club of Washington, Administrator Busey urged all airlines to establish a safety self-audit program. FAA would not penalize airlines for inadvertent violations uncovered by the audits, provided the problem were promptly corrected and reported to the agency. (See April 8, 1992.)
Monday, April 2, 1990:A National Transportation Safety Board reorganization effective this date included establishment of a new Office of Aviation Safety.
Friday, April 13, 1990:A Federal court declared FAA’s rules of practice in assessing civil penalties not exceeding $50,000 to be invalid because the agency had failed to give public notice of the proposed rules or to allow a period of public comment (see December 30, 1987). FAA accordingly suspended the program, issued a rulemaking proposal, and followed this with a final rule effective August 2, 1990. A law enacted August 15, 1990, provided new legislative authority for the program, extending it until August 1, 1992. The program became permanent with the Civil Penalty Assessment Act enacted on August 26, 1992.
Wednesday, April 18, 1990:A Federal bankruptcy judge removed Eastern Air Lines from the control of Texas Air Chairman Frank Lorenzo and placed it in the hands of special trustee, Martin Shugrue. Eastern had lost more than $1 billion since it filed for Chapter 11 protection on March 9, 1989. On August 9, 1990, Scandinavian Airline System bought Lorenzo’s interests in Continental Airline Holdings (formerly known as Texas Air Corporation), which owned Eastern and Continental airlines. Besides stepping down as chairman of Continental Airlines Holdings, Lorenzo agreed not to work for a Continental competitor for seven years, although this stipulation was later dropped as part of a legal settlement. (See March 4, 1989, and January 18, 1991.)
Thursday, May 10, 1990:FAA announced that a contract for development of a prototype program for air traffic control training had been awarded to Hampton University, a designated Historically Black College or University (HBCU). Hampton thus joined the Air Traffic Control Training Center at Eden Prarie, Minn., as one of two institutions to receive Federal funds as part of the Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) begun by FAA earlier in the year. Three other educational institutions subsequently joined the CTI, but without receiving Federal funds. Graduates of CTI programs became eligible to apply to FAA for employment as developmental controllers without having to attend the FAA Academy.
Sunday, May 13, 1990:The FAA Depot at the Aeronautical Center was renamed the FAA Logistics Center.
Tuesday, May 15, 1990:The President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism released its report, which focused on the bombing of Pan American Flight 103 (see December 21, 1988). The report included criticism of FAA and recommendations for improving security and combating terrorism. Among its recommendations, the report suggested that FAA: elevate is security division to a position reporting directly to the Administrator (see June 14, 1990); appoint federal security managers to manage security at domestic airports (see October 1, 1991); launch a research and development program to produce techniques and equipment to detect small amounts of plastic explosives (see November 16, 1990); and make public notification of threats to civil aviation under certain circumstances.
Friday, June 1, 1990:The U.S. Secretary of State and Soviet Foreign Minister signed an agreement providing for expanded air service between their two countries. The accord was one of several pacts concluded in the context of a Washington summit meeting between Presidents Bush and Gorbachev. DOT subsequently authorized several airlines to provide new service to Soviet airports. On June 17, 1991, Alaska Airlines became the first U.S. carrier to offer scheduled service from the West Coast to the Soviet Far East. (See April 29, 1986, and May 25, 1993.)
Tuesday, June 5, 1990:FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive requiring modifications to the hydraulic system of certain DC-10 aircraft to guard against possible loss of the flight control system. (See July 19, 1989.)
Wednesday, June 13, 1990:FAA dedicated its first child care center to be built “from the ground up” in a ceremony at the Aeronautical Center.
Thursday, June 14, 1990:Secretary Skinner announced that he intended to create an Office of Intelligence and Security within OST, and that its Director would be Coast Guard Vice Admiral Clyde E. Robbins. At the same time, Administrator Busey announced the new FAA position of Assistant Administrator for Civil Aviation Security (see July 20, 1990). The actions were in part a response to recommendations of the President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism (see May 15, 1990).
Tuesday, July 10, 1990:The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld FAA’s random drug testing program for the aviation industry. (See November 21, 1988, and July 25, 1991).
Friday, July 20, 1990:An FAA directive issued this date established the new position of Assistant Administrator for Civil Aviation Security in response to a recommendation by the President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism (see May 15, 1990). Orlo K. Steele, a retired Marine Major General, was appointed to fill that position on November 1. On November 23, FAA announced a new structure for the security organization. A Scientific Staff was created to advise Steele, and four new offices were established to handle: Policy and Planning; Program and Resource Management; Operations; and Intelligence.
Thursday, July 26, 1990:FAA adopted a new rule, effective November 29, 1990, requiring pilots to consent to the release of information from the National Driver Register when applying for an FAA-required medical certificate. Pilots were also required to provide FAA with written notification of each driving conviction related to alcohol or drugs. The rule authorized FAA to deny, suspend, or revoke a pilot certificate if the individual concerned received two or more alcohol or drug-related convictions within a three-year period. (See February 17, 1987, and February 3, 1994.)
Thursday, August 2, 1990:Iraq invaded and seized control of Kuwait. President Bush’s response included immediate restrictions on air transportation between the U.S. and Iraq, and these prohibitions were extended to include occupied Kuwait on August 9. The United States also sent thousands of troops to Saudi Arabia in Operation Desert Shield. Among the other effects of the crisis during the rest of 1990 was a dramatic escalation of the rise in jet fuel prices. (See August 17, 1990.)
Wednesday, August 15, 1990:FAA and the Community College of Beaver County, Pa., signed an agreement under which the college would conduct a five-year prototype training program for air traffic controllers. Qualified graduates would be eligible to become controllers without attending the FAA Academy.
Friday, August 17, 1990:A portion of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) was called up for the first time in history as the Defense Department activated CRAF Level 1. Participating airlines provided aircraft and crews to expand U.S. airlift capability for the Operation Desert Shield deployment in the Middle East. (See August 2, 1990, and September 25, 1990.)
Saturday, September 1, 1990:In accordance with DOT policy, smoking was prohibited in FAA facilities, although designated smoking areas were permitted where a complete ban was not feasible. The actual implementation date of the ban at specific locations was allowed to vary to allow for negotiation with unions.
Thursday, September 6, 1990:A new Air Force One made its maiden voyage. The specially designed Boeing 747, and its identical backup plane, replaced two twenty-year-old Boeing 707s.
Tuesday, September 25, 1990:FAA released its first strategic plan, addressing six issue areas as well as aviation in the 21st Century. The plan, dated August 1990, was presented in the framework of the Secretary’s National Transportation Policy (NTP), which Secretary Skinner had presented to President Bush on March 8, 1990. The NTP presented 169 guidelines and 65 legislative, regulatory, budget, and program initiatives to improve the nation’s transportation network.
Tuesday, September 25, 1990:The United Nations voted to ban virtually all air traffic with Iraq, with the exception of certain humanitarian flights. (See August 2, 1990, and January 16, 1991.)
Wednesday, September 26, 1990:FAA issued a rule permitting airlines to develop alternative training for flight crews under the Advanced Qualification Programs (AQP) . Developed by a government/industry task force, AQP was intended to promote flexibility and innovation in crew training techniques. A required element of the AQP option was Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) training, which focused on communications skills, coordination, and decision-making. By August 1996, 15 air carriers were participating in the AQP program. During that month, FAA announced that it had developed a new training tool to assist regional airlines in adopting the AQP approach.
Friday, September 28, 1990:FAA and the MITRE Corporation signed a five-year agreement under which MITRE would operate a new Center for Advanced Aviation System Development at the firm’s facility in McLean, Va. The arrangement was subsequently renewed.
Sunday, September 30, 1990:During fiscal 1990, which ended on this date, FAA began a Direct Route Program that allowed controllers greater flexibility in honoring pilots’ requests to use more direct, fuel-saving routes. Renamed the National Route Program during the following fiscal year, the enhanced program permitted more cost-effective operations between 16 city pairs. By September 1994, the expanding program included 104 city pairs. (See October 1994.)
Monday, October 1, 1990:FAA began a “Manage to Budget” pilot project, to last at least one year, under which the managers of about 2,000 employees received new types of authority in an effort to speed personnel actions and achieve a requirements-driven budget process. The project was subsequently extended for a second year.
Tuesday, October 16, 1990:The Department of State announced that it had raised to $4 million the maximum reward for information helping to catch terrorists, due to $1 million donations from both the Air Transport Association and the Air Line Pilots Association. The rewards program had begun in 1984 with a maximum payment of $500,000, but Congress increased that limit to $2 million after the bombing of Pan American Flight 103 (see December 21, 1988).
Monday, November 5, 1990:The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 authorized funding for FAA and other Federal entities for FY91-92. Title IX of that legislation included as subparts three acts pertaining to aviation:
  • The Aviation Safety and Capacity Expansion Act included permission for FAA to draw on the Trust Fund for up to 75 percent of its operations and maintenance costs and authorized $5.5 billion for modernization of air traffic Facilities & Equipment over the two years. It also empowered the Department of Transportation to authorize airports to levy Passenger Facility Charges of up to $3 per enplaning passenger (see May 22, 1991). Other features of the law provided: encouragement of capacity development at former and current military airports (see May 30, 1991); continuation of the Essential Air Service program; development of a system of Auxiliary Flight Service Stations (see November 8, 1991); and more flexibility for FAA in procurement contracts.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration Research, Engineering and Development Authorization Act further defined FAA’s research functions (see November 3, 1988). It included a mandate for the establishment of a Catastrophic Failure Prevention Program to develop technologies to combat the failure of parts and equipment that could result in aircraft accidents. .
  • The Airport Noise and Capacity Act required airlines by mid-1999 to phase out Stage 2 noise-level jets (see February 18, 1980), although those carriers that met this deadline for 85 percent of their fleet might apply to operate their remaining Stage 2 aircraft until the end of 2003. The law also directed the Secretary of Transportation to prepare a national noise policy by mid-1991, and placed limitations were upon airports’ authority to impose noise restrictions (see September 19, 1991).
Wednesday, November 14, 1990:Pan American and United Airlines signed an agreement under which United would pay $400 million for Pan Am’s routes to London Heathrow and certain other assets. (See November 7, 1985, and January 8, 1991.)
Thursday, November 15, 1990:FAA announced that it had completed installation of the Enhanced Traffic Management System (ETMS), which would become operational nationwide on December 3. ETMS was a computer system able to predict nationwide air traffic demands, permitting traffic managers to take corrective action. (See May 17, 1987, and April 15, 1994.)
Friday, November 16, 1990:President Bush signed the Aviation Security Improvement Act of 1990, which: required certain regulatory actions affecting several agencies; mandated new reports, organizational arrangements, and staffing requirements; and empowered FAA to conduct an accelerated research and development program in support of aviation security. (See May 15, 1990, August 15, 1991, and October 1, 1991.)
Monday, December 3, 1990: For the second time within eight years (see September 24, 1983), Continental Airlines filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the Federal bankruptcy code. (See January 7, 1993.)
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.