FAA History: 1992

Friday, January 31, 1992:Trans World Airlines filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy laws, announcing a plan under which chairman Carl Icahn would lose his controlling interest but continue to head the airline for at least one year. Subsequent events included acquisition of substantial interests in TWA by its employees, and the departure of Icahn in early 1993. TWA became solvent on November 3, 1993, filed again for protection on June 30, 1995, and emerged from its second Chapter 11 reorganization on August 23, 1995.
Monday, February 3, 1992:FAA announced a computerized testing system, expected to speed selection of air traffic controller trainees and improve their success rate, as well as a strengthened training program. Previously, candidates spent their first 9 weeks of employment training and testing and were terminated if they were not successful. The new program took 4 1/2 days, demonstrated an equivalent ability to predict success, and was conducted before an individual was hired.
Tuesday, February 4, 1992:FAA awarded a 10-year, $508 million contract to Electronic Data Systems (EDS) to provide automated data processing services to support such functions as safety analysis and payroll. On August 14-15, the company successfully transferred computer applications and data from FAA’s Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City to an EDS data center in Plano, Texas. The EDS contract was part of the Computer Resources Nucleus (CORN) project, a program to “outsource” computer services begun in the fall of 1986. CORN had received criticism during June 1990 when General Accounting Office faulted FAA’s planning and justification of the project. The General Services Administration suspended procurement authority for CORN in September, but reinstated the program in December 1990 after FAA made revisions.
Friday, February 7, 1992:The Department of Transportation published a request for public comments on rules that may be outdated, too costly, or impede economic growth. The action was a response to President Bush’s January 28 State of the Union speech declaring a 90-day rulemaking moratorium and a review of regulations. On May 1, Secretary Card announced that a regulatory review had identified over 300 administrative or legislative changes in DOT regulations that would help the nation’s economy.
Monday, February 24, 1992:Andrew H. Card, Jr., took the oath as Secretary of Transportation (a public swearing-in ceremony was held on March 11). A former member of the Massachusetts legislature, the new Secretary had been deputy Chief of Staff under Bush and served the Reagan White House as deputy assistant to the President and director of the Intergovernmental Affairs Office. Card had been nominated on January 22 and confirmed by the Senate on February 21. He served for the remainder of the Bush Administration, resigning effective January 20, 1993.
Thursday, March 5, 1992: Effective this date, FAA chartered the Pilot and Aviation Maintenance Technician Shortage Blue Ribbon Panel. On September 27, 1993, FAA announced the results of the panel’s study, which foresaw a possible shortage of experienced personnel within three to five years. The panel considered the fundamental solution was to focus education and training programs on industry needs, and made 13 recommendations to address the problem.
Tuesday, March 17, 1992:A ceremony at the Salt Lake City Air Route Traffic Control Center commemorated the completed installation of Meteorologist Weather Processors (MWPs) at 21 en route centers and the central flow control facility in Washington. The system assisted air traffic controllers by combining data from the National Weather Service, FAA radars, and a satellite operated by Harris Corporation, the contractor that provided MWP on a lease basis. On July 8, 1996, FAA announced a contract with Harris to develop, install, and support the Weather and Radar Processor (WARP), a more advanced system that would integrate information including data from Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD). The first phase of this project would replace MWP with upgraded leased equipment.
Tuesday, March 17, 1992:FAA issued a rule extending the requirement for the Ground Proximity Warning System to all turbine powered (rather than just turbojet) aircraft with 10 or more passenger seats flown by air taxi and commercial operators, effective April 24, 1994. The new rule affected primarily commuter airlines. On May 27, the National Transportation Safety Board announced that it had removed a recommendation for such a rule from its “Most Wanted” list of safety actions. (See December 24, 1974.)
Sunday, March 22, 1992:A USAir Fokker F-28 4000 jet crashed at New York’s LaGuardia Airport while taking off during a snowstorm, killing 27 of the 51 persons aboard. In a 1993 report, the National Transportation Safety Board cited the probable cause as: failure of the airline industry and FAA to provide flight crews with procedures and requirements compatible with departure delays in conditions conducive to icing; and the flight crew’s decision to take off without positive assurance that the airplane’s wings were ice-free after 35 minutes exposure to precipitation following deicing. (See November 15, 1987, and May 28, 1992.)
Tuesday, March 31, 1992:DOT announced that the United States would explore “open skies” aviation agreements with all European countries willing to allow free access to their markets. In the past, the nation had offered such agreements to only a few of its largest aviation partners. On August 5, DOT established a definition of “open skies” including such points as: (1) open entry on all routes; (2) unrestricted capacity and frequency on all routes; (3) flexibility in setting fares; (4) liberal charter arrangements; (5) liberal cargo arrangements; (6) open code-sharing opportunities; (7) nondiscriminatory operation of and access to computer reservations systems; (8) the ability of carriers to freely enter into commercial transactions related to their flight operations; (9) the right of a carrier to perform its own ground handling in the other country; (10) no restrictions on converting earnings into hard currency or returning earnings to homelands; and (11) the right to operate between any U.S. airport and any point in the European country without restriction. (See September 4, 1992.)
Wednesday, April 8, 1992:FAA announced a new self-audit program for aviation manufacturers. The firms were encouraged to identify their own violations of safety regulations, and the agency would not take enforcement action for infringements voluntarily reported and corrected. FAA had previously unveiled a similar program for airlines (see March 27, 1990).
Wednesday, April 15, 1992:United Nations sanctions, including a cut-off of air transportation links, went into effect against Libya due to its failure to surrender two suspects in the December 1988 bombing of a Pan American flight (see November 14, 1991). On April 16, FAA issued a special regulation implementing a Presidential order prohibiting any aircraft on a flight to or from Libya from taking off from, landing in, or overflying the United States. Since commercial air links with Libya had already been prohibited for several years (see February 11, 1986), the action expanded the ban to business and private aircraft and to overflights of U.S. territory.
Thursday, April 16, 1992:At Manassas, Va., FAA dedicated its first “recycled” tower. The 60-foot structure had been moved from Englewood, Colo., where it was no longer being used.
Wednesday, April 22, 1992:FAA announced expansion of the Terminal Area VFR Routes program which charted special routes to help pilots using Visual Flight Rules in avoiding controlled airspace. The concept, which had been evaluated in the Los Angeles area in 1988-89, would be applied at eight other locations.
Monday, April 27, 1992:FAA announced that its Flight Standards Service was opening a direct computer line to answer questions from the aviation community about regulations and procedures. The action reflected a growing global trend toward use of computer networks for communications. On August 15, 1995, FAA opened a “Headquarters News and Public Affairs Home Page” on the World Wide Web to provide news releases and other information to the media and public, and the Northwest Mountain Region opened a home page on the same day.
Thursday, April 30, 1992:President Bush signed an order directing Federal agencies to modify their procedures in order to facilitate the privatization of airports and other public assets built with Federal assistance.
Thursday, April 30, 1992:Rioting in the Los Angeles area forced FAA to temporarily close its towers at Santa Monica, Torrance, and Hawthorne, as well as the flight service station at Hawthorne. The disorders also hampered operations at Los Angeles International, where smoke from burning buildings created Instrument Flight Rules conditions.
Monday, May 4, 1992: To facilitate emergency evacuations, FAA published a rule specifying required distances between rows of seats near over-wing exits on airliners: a 20 inch clear path for three-seat exit rows, and a 10 inch clear path for two-seat exit rows. As an alternative, airlines could remove the seat nearest to each overwing exit and provide two paths six inches wide in front of and behind the seats adjacent to the exit.
Wednesday, May 20, 1992:At the request of the State Department, DOT halted the U.S. landing rights of Yugoslav Airlines. The sanction was a response to Yugoslavia’s failure to guarantee that Sarajevo Airport would be reopened for humanitarian relief flights or that Serbian troops would withdraw from the airport and its vicinity. In accordance with a Presidential order issued on June 5, DOT and FAA implemented sanctions that included a ban on flights between the United States and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). The sanctions were suspended indefinitely following a January 2, 1996, determination by the President that such a suspension was needed to achieve a settlement of the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Thursday, May 28, 1992:FAA opened a two-day International Conference on Airplane Ground Deicing. The conference reflected global concern about icing and produced a series of recommendations for combating the hazard. On September 25, FAA announced a requirement for airlines using large aircraft (Part 121) to have an approved ground de-icing/anti-icing program in place by November 1, 1992. On December 29, 1993, FAA announced strengthened deicing requirements for commuter and air taxi pilots to check aircraft surfaces before taking off in adverse weather. The agency also mandated certain new training requirements for commuter pilots as well as certain training and checking requirements for pilots of larger private planes. (See March 22, 1992, and October 31, 1994.)
Monday, June 15, 1992:FAA awarded contracts to the Wilcox and Raytheon corporations to design and develop advanced versions of the Microwave Landing System. Each vendor was to produce six to twelve first article test systems. Following successful completion of this phase, full scale production was planned with the same contractors in 1996. (See June 21, 1991, and June 2, 1994.)
Wednesday, June 17, 1992:DOT Secretary Card and Russia’s Foreign Minister signed a memorandum of understanding on airspace use, air navigation, and air traffic control. Features included joint cooperation in opening shorter Far Eastern routes and FAA assistance in establishing a joint civil-military air traffic system for Russia. (See February 16, 1990, and May 25, 1993).
Friday, June 26, 1992:The Supreme Court ruled that airports are not a public forum and hence airport authorities may place reasonable restrictions on speech. Such regulation might include a ban on soliciting donations, and limits on the time, place, and manner of distributing literature. (See February 18, 1980.)
Saturday, June 27, 1992:General Thomas C. Richards (USAF, Ret.) became FAA’s twelfth Administrator, succeeding James B. Busey (see June 30, 1989), in a private ceremony. On July 17, Richards took the oath a second time in a public ceremony. President Bush had announced Richards’ nomination on March 31, following the withdrawal of a previous nominee (see entry for November 20, 1991), and formally nominated him on May 1. The Senate confirmed the nomination in June, and Congress passed legislation exempting Richards from the statute barring military officers from serving as FAA Administrator. Born on February 13, 1930, in San Diego, Calif., Richards received a B.S. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1956, an M.A. from Shippensburg State College in 1973, and was also a graduate of the U.S. Army War College. Richards’ military career began with the Army infantry in 1948 and included combat service in the Korean War. He received a commission as a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1956. He earned his pilot’s wings in 1957. During his Air Force career, he flew over 600 combat missions as a forward air controller in the Vietnam war. His assignments included: commandant of cadets at the Air Force Academy; vice commander, 8th Air Force, Strategic Air Command; commander of the Air University; and deputy commander in chief, U.S. European Command. Upon retiring from the military in 1989, he became a corporate consultant and served on the President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism (see May 15, 1990). Richards was FAA Administrator for less than seven months, resigning when William J. Clinton succeeded George H. Bush as President on January 20, 1993.
Monday, June 29, 1992: In a report released to Congress on this date, FAA recommended that all states be allowed to administer block grants for nonprimary airports on the basis of a successful pilot project under which three states had administered such grants. (See October 1, 1989, and October 31, 1992.)
Friday, July 17, 1992:The United States and the European Economic Community signed an agreement placing certain limitations on government subsidies for the development and production of large civil aircraft.
Monday, July 20, 1992:One of the Navy Department’s five prototypes of the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor crashed in the Potomac River, killing all seven people aboard. (Another of the prototypes had crashed, causing no injuries, during the previous summer.) The Navy Department suspended V-22 flight testing until after an accident report, dated May 18, 1993, identified a fluid leak and fire as the cause of the Potomac River crash. On August 20, a XV-15 tiltrotor crashed during a Bell Helicopter demonstration flight at Arlington (Texas) Municipal Airport. The XV-15, a smaller, two-seat version of the V-22, was a forerunner of the Osprey.
Thursday, July 30, 1992:FAA excluded general aviation aircraft from the rule that all transponders installed after July 1, 1992, be Mode S transponders (see January 29, 1987).
Monday, August 24, 1992:Hurricane Andrew swept through south Florida, causing devastation that included damage to airports and resulting flight cancellations. Among the worst hit FAA facilities were the Richmond Long Range Radar site and the tower and International Automated Flight Service Station at Tamiami airport, all of which were severely damaged. Facilities at Key West lost communication lines, and other agency installations experienced significant damage, power loss, and outages. By the following day, however, Miami, Key West, West Palm Beach, and Fort Lauderdale Executive airports reopened. The hurricane moved into Louisiana on August 26. During the height of the storm, most FAA facilities in the affected part of that state shut down or were placed on standby status, and several airports were temporarily closed. The hurricane destroyed or badly harmed the homes of about 144 FAA employees in the Miami area, and the agency organized an airlift to provide emergency relief. A committee representing local agency organizations coordinated the distribution of supplies and of funds donated by FAAers throughout the country, while the agency provided such benefits as administrative leave, counseling, and emergency loans. At the same time, FAA rushed the restoration of airspace system facilities and supported the overall Federal relief program.
Friday, August 28, 1992:Typhoon OMarch struck Guam with winds of up to 150 miles an hour, causing major damage to an estimated 75 to 90 percent of all buildings. The island lost all power. By August 30 the airport had reopened, but only for VFR/daylight operations. No FAA families were injured, although the housing area was severely damaged.
Friday, September 4, 1992:DOT announced that the U.S. and the Netherlands had agreed to open their international aviation markets to each other’s airlines, the first such agreement under the Department’s open skies initiative (see March 31, 1992). Taking advantage of the pact, Northwest Airlines and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines agreed on September 9 to create what they called “a unified global airlines system.” Although KLM already had a 20 percent stake in Northwest, the new agreement enabled the two carriers to integrate their operations worldwide. On January 11, 1993, DOT gave Northwest and KLM immunity from antitrust laws so they could operate as one airline. The trend toward greater collaboration with foreign carriers was further illustrated by cooperative plans announced in 1993 by the following U.S. airlines: Delta (with Swissair); Continental (with Air France); United (with Lufthansa); and USAir (which announced a scaled-back version of a plan for partnership with British Airways first proposed in July 1992).
Wednesday, September 9, 1992:FAA published a rule establishing a “primary aircraft” category for aircraft of simple design intended for pleasure and personal use. Primary aircraft must: be unpowered or powered by a single engine meeting certain specifications; have an unpressurized cabin; carry no more than four persons; and weigh no more than 2,700 pounds. (Ultralight vehicles were not included, however.) The new classification was intended to simplify certification procedures and provide owners with aircraft less costly to buy and maintain. The addition of this category raised the number of such of type certificates to 8: normal, utility, acrobatic, transport, special class, commuter, restricted, and primary.
Friday, September 11, 1992:Hurricane Iniki hit parts of the state of Hawaii, killing one person on the island of Oahu and three on Kauai, which suffered most of the damage. The storm severely damaged the control tower cab at Kauai’s Lihue airport.
Tuesday, September 15, 1992:FAA published a final rule requiring airlines to allow the use of approved child restraint systems (CRSs) on their aircraft. At the same time, FAA amended its Advisory Circular describing approved CRSs to exclude any that positioned the child on the lap or chest of a seated adult. (See February 26, 1985, and September 21, 1994.)
Wednesday, September 16, 1992:FAA published a rule allowing manufacturers to use a much less costly alternative method of determining whether light helicopters met noise certification standards. The new procedure employed fewer tests and microphones, but required helicopters to meet a standard that was two decibels more stringent than under the normal procedure.
Wednesday, September 30, 1992:During the fiscal year ending on this date, air fares in markets served by Southwest Airlines were dramatically lower than in other short haul markets, according to a DOT study announced on May 11, 1993. The study found that Southwest (which had begun operations as a Texas intrastate carrier on June 18, 1971) now ranked fifth among U.S. airlines in terms of passengers carried. The success of Southwest illustrated the demand for low-cost service in short haul markets. The DOT study also noted an increase in new carriers over the past year, including five jet airlines providing scheduled passenger service.
Wednesday, September 30, 1992:FAA inspectors completed the first evaluations under the Aircraft Certification Systems Evaluation Program (ACSEP). The program used standardized evaluation techniques to ensure the continued integrity of manufacturers’ design data and production activities subsequent to their initial approval.
Thursday, October 8, 1992:FAA ordered inspection of fuse pins securing the engines of most Boeing 747s following the crash of an Israeli 747 in Holland on October 4. On November 13, the agency ordered all U.S. 747 operators to replace old-style fuse pins after the inspections showed instances of corrosion and cracking.
Wednesday, October 14, 1992:An FAA-chartered task force released its report on a Global Navigation Satellite System using the Global Positioning Systen (GPS) . The report concluded that the system offered the greatest opportunity to enhance aviation efficiency and safety since the introduction of radio communications and navigation. To help begin the implementation process, FAA on December 10 released a technical standard order prescribing standards for airborne supplemental navigation equipment using GPS. (See April 1, 1991, and December 17, 1993.)
Tuesday, October 27, 1992:Effective this date, FAA amended its regulation on exit row seats, now redefined as “exit seats” to clarify that the rule affected only seats providing direct access to an exit or seats in rows through which passengers must pass to use an exit. The changes included: prohibiting taxi or pushback until a crewmember has verified that no exit seat is occupied by a person unable to perform required emergency functions; and prohibiting a passenger from sitting in an exit seat if that passenger cannot read, speak, or understand the primary language of the crew. (See March 2, 1990.)
Saturday, October 31, 1992:President Bush signed the Airport and Airway Safety, Capacity, Noise Improvement and Intermodal Transportation Act of 1992. Among other provisions, the act contained amendments reauthorizing the Airport Improvement Program through September 30, 1993 (see May 26, 1994). It also reauthorized the State Block Grant Pilot Program through fiscal 1996 for the current participants (Illinois, North Carolina, and Missouri) and provided funds to add four additional states to the program. On January 15, 1993, FAA selected the states of Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, and Wisconsin to participate in the pilot project. (See October 1, 1989.)
October 1992: In response to safety issues relating to aging aircraft, FAA established the Center of Excellence in Computational Modeling of Aircraft Structures as a joint effort with Rutgers University and Georgia Institute of Technology. This was the first Air Transportation Center of Excellence created by the agency through a program in which selected institutions received long-term matching grants to conduct research under cooperative agreements. FAA subsequently established a Center of Excellence for airport pavement research in 1995 and another for operations research in 1996. In December 1996, FAA announced that it was soliciting proposals to establish a Center of Excellence for airworthiness assurance.
Friday, November 20, 1992:FAA outlined the results of a congressionally mandated Aircraft Noise Mitigation Review for the New York metropolitan area within a 55 nautical mile radius of LaGuardia airport. The review complemented FAA’s work on the environmental impact of the Expanded East Coast plan on New Jersey (see March 11, 1991). In conducting the review, FAA held 18 listening sessions in New York and Connecticut. The review team’s recommendations, which represented a comprehensive action plan, included: raising certain helicopter flight altitudes; amending flight patterns to allow more flights bound for LaGuardia to remain longer over Long Island sound; establishing a second instrument landing system at Stewart Airport, and increasing noise reduction awareness training programs.
Friday, November 27, 1992:A directive issued on this date re-titled the Aviation Standards National Field Office as the Office of Aviation System Standards, a designation that better reflected its identity as an FAA Washington headquarters organizational element.
Monday, November 30, 1992:FAA gave a “cure notice” to IBM concerning its development of the Initial Sector Suite System (ISSS), a part of the Advanced Automation System (AAS). The agency stated that unless the company provided a plan to remedy deficiencies within 10 calendar days, the government would withhold progress payments under the contract. Earlier in November, IBM had stated that, because of software difficulties and other problems, the ISSS would not be ready for FAA acceptance until September 1994, thus adding another 14 months to an already delayed timetable. Following the cure notice, IBM submitted to FAA an initial and later a final cure plan. FAA’s own steps to remedy the situation included changes in the project’s management structure and an April 1 ban on further changes in user requirements for the ISSS. (See October 1, 1991, and December 13, 1993.)
Thursday, December 10, 1992:Northwest Airlines began the first commercial flight to transport U.S. troops to Somalia in support of Operation Restore Hope, an international effort to counter famine and disorder in that nation. U.S. forces remained in Somalia until March 1994, and returned briefly during Feb-March 1995 to aid the evacuation of United Nations peacekeepers.
Thursday, December 17, 1992:The United States, Canada, and Mexico concluded the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) . The U.S. Congress approved implementation of NAFTA by passing P.L. 103-182, signed into law on December 8, 1993. On May 20, 1994, FAA Administrator Hinson and his counterparts from Mexico and Canada held a trilateral meeting as a first step in a continuing process aimed at increasing cooperation on a variety of aviation issues.
Friday, December 18, 1992:Eight fatalities occurred when a Cessna 550 crashed after encountering wake turbulence behind a Boeing 757 during descent into Billings, Mont. The National Transportation Safety Board subsequently cited the probable cause as the pilot’s failure to follow established wake turbulence procedures. Nevertheless, the accident increased concerns that 757 wake turbulence might represent a special problem, an issue raised within FAA by Chief Scientist Robert Machol. (See November 1, 1975, and December 15, 1993.)
Monday, December 21, 1992:The Justice Department filed a civil antitrust suit against eight airlines, charging them with fixing prices through their computerized fare system. The suit resulted from a three year probe into ticket pricing between 1988 and 1990. All eight carriers eventually signed consent decrees, denying wrongdoing but agreeing to avoid the fare practices.
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.