FAA History: 1997

Thursday, January 2, 1997:The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an airworthiness directive requiring operators to adopt procedures enabling the flight crew to reestablish control of a Boeing 737 experiencing an uncommanded yaw or roll – the phenomenon believed to have brought down USAir Flight 427 at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1994. Pilots were told to lower the nose of their aircraft, maximize power, and not attempt to maintain assigned altitudes. (See August 22, 1996; January 15, 1997.)
Monday, January 6, 1997:Illinois Governor Jim Edgar and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced a compromise under which the city would reopen Meigs Field and operate the airport for five years. After that, Chicago would be free to close the airport.
Monday, January 6, 1997:FAA announced the appointment of William Albee as aircraft noise ombudsman, a new position mandated by the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-264). (See September 30, 1996.)
Tuesday, January 7, 1997:Dredging resumed in the search for clues in the TWA Flight 800 crash. The operation had been suspended in mid-December 1996. (See July 17, 1996; May 4, 1997.)
Thursday, January 9, 1997:A Comair Embraer 120 stalled in snowy weather and crashed 18 miles short of Detroit [Michigan] Metropolitan Airport, killing all 29 aboard. (See May 12, 1997; August 27, 1998.)
Tuesday, January 14, 1997: In a conference sponsored by the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security and held in Washington, DC, at George Washington University, airline executives called upon the Clinton Administration to privatize key functions of FAA and to install a nonprofit, airline-organized cooperative that would manage security issues. Participants recommended funding these changes with user fees instead of the, then-current, ticket tax. (See July 17, 1996; February 12, 1997.)
Wednesday, January 15, 1997:FAA issued a fact sheet announcing plans for a two-year evaluation, beginning in 1999, of new air traffic management concepts and technologies for application in Alaska and Hawaii. The goal of this Ha-laska free flight demonstration project was to show that existing technologies could support the “free flight” concept. (See April 16, 1998.)
Wednesday, January 15, 1997:As part of the continuing review stemming from the accidents near Colorado Springs (1991) and Pittsburgh (1994), Vice President Al Gore announced FAA would require operators to retrofit existing Boeing 737 rudder control systems with four newly developed components. (See January 2, 1997; March 14, 1997.)
Wednesday, January 15, 1997:FAA praised the Department of Defense for making its global digital terrain elevation database available for civil aviation use, stating that this action would help prevent a danger known as controlled flight into terrain.
Thursday, January 16, 1997:FAA announced that the new Display Channel Complex Rehost (DCCR) computer system began operations, ten months ahead of schedule, at the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center. (See April 1, 1996.)
Tuesday, January 21, 1997:FAA issued an airworthiness directive requiring operators to re-inspect and repair wiring leading to fuel tank booster pumps numbers 1 and 4 in the inboard main fuel tanks of 747 airplanes produced prior to 1980. The inspections had to be completed by May 20, 1997. (See November 26, 1997.)
Wednesday, January 22, 1997:Department of Transportation Inspector General Kenneth Mead issued a report saying that poor cost estimating processes for FAA air traffic control modernization projects resulted in unreliable cost and financial information, increasing the likelihood of poor investment decisions.
Wednesday, January 29, 1997:FAA selected Raytheon to build the Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS) and to install and maintain it at 34 sites covering 45 airports. ITWS would combine sensor and radar data from FAA and National Weather Service and present predictions on potentially hazardous weather to air traffic control personnel via easily-understood graphics and text.
Wednesday, January 29, 1997:FAA announced steps to provide the following aviation safety data to the public : beginning February 1, press releases on all new enforcement actions that sought civil penalties of $50,000 or greater; effective, February 28, an Internet page providing safety information, including some data previously available only through Freedom of Information Act requests, to consumers; and by March 31, addition of a public education portion to the Internet page to help travelers better understand the aviation safety record and safety systems.
Wednesday, January 29, 1997:A federal judge in Colorado selected the auditorium at FAA’s Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center to host the families of victims of the Oklahoma City federal building bombing who wanted to watch a close-circuit broadcast of the criminal trials.
Saturday, February 1, 1997:Barry L. Valentine followed Linda Hall Daschle as acting FAA Administrator, effective at midnight. Monte Belger continued as acting deputy administrator. (See November 9, 1996; December 19, 1997; August 4, 1999.)
Wednesday, February 5, 1997:A series of incidents and developments began involving U.S. Air Force (USAF) and U.S. commercial aircraft. Two USAF F-16 fighter jets reportedly were involved that day in a near midair collision with a Nation’s Air Express 727 off the New Jersey coast. February 7, an American Eagle pilot reported that four Air Force jet fighters came close to his aircraft off the coast of Maryland; the Air Force temporarily halted all training operations off the East Coast as a precaution; the FAA asked controllers at three air route traffic control centers and the military controllers at the Virginia Capes station to review procedures regarding the military areas off the East Coast. February 10, two more, relatively minor, incidents became known and the USAF widened the suspension to include the Gulf of Mexico. February 11, the training resumed after the USAF informed pilots on the dangers of close encounters with airliners. February 19, the media reported that the USAF had concluded that although the pilot in the Nations Air incident had broken no rules, in the future, its pilots would query controllers before intercepting unknown aircraft detected in flight. February 26, the Navy stated that a military controller’s failure to follow proper procedures had caused the Nations Air incident.
Thursday, February 6, 1997:Invision Technologies announced installation of the first two CTX 5000 SP explosives detection systems at Chicago O’Hare and New York Kennedy airports. (See December 23, 1996; February 12, 1997; May 6, 1997.)
Wednesday, February 12, 1997:In compliance with Executive Order 13015, the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security (Gore Commission) released its final report to President Clinton. Its recommendations included: reducing the aviation fatal accident rate by a factor of five within ten years, requiring installation of enhanced Ground Proximity Warning Systems on all civil and military passenger aircraft (see November 6, 1996), expanding the aging aircraft program to cover non-structural systems, passing legislation to protect employees who report safety/security violations, ending the exemption of passengers younger than age two from restraint systems, and requiring smoke detectors in the cargo holds of all passenger aircraft. Air traffic control recommendations included: national airspace system (NAS) modernization by 2005, stronger leadership in global positioning system (GPS) implementation, requiring NAS users to fund its development and operation, and identifying the frequency spectrum needed for air traffic control. Security recommendations included: federal funding for a major security improvement, new FAA standards for baggage matching and passenger profile screening, U.S. Post Office examination of all packages over one pound, and a U.S. proposal for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to begin verifying international security compliance. The commission also recommended measures designed to improve response to aviation disasters. Responding to the Gore Commission report, FAA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced a joint initiative, in partnership with the Department of Defense and industry, to reduce aircraft accident rates five-fold within ten years. (See January 14, 1997; January 15, 1997; February 6, 1997; December 15, 1997.)
Saturday, February 15, 1997:President Clinton used his powers under the Railway Labor Act to stop a strike by American Airlines pilots a few minutes after it began. An emergency board was established to try to find an acceptable compromise during a 60 day cooling off period. March 19, American and the Allied Pilots Association stated they had reached a tentative agreement on a new contract. April 4, the union’s board voted in favor of the contract, which included higher pay than previously offered. May 5, union members voted to approve the new five-year contract.
Monday, February 17, 1997:Rodney E. Slater became Secretary of Transportation. Outgoing Department Of Transportation Secretary Federico Peña was designated to be Secretary of Energy, but this appointment was not yet confirmed. (See December 20, 1996.)
Tuesday, February 18, 1997:The Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) became the last of 21 centers to implement the Voice Switching and Control System (VSCS). May 21, the FAA formally dedicated this installation. (See June 30, 1995.)
Wednesday, February 19, 1997:FAA and National Weather service launched an experimental aviation digital data service, via the Internet, to provide weather information to the aviation community.
Friday, February 21, 1997:FAA and Interior Department announced a delay in implementing aspects of a rule, announced on December 31, 1996, on flights over the Grand Canyon. Most of the rule’s provisions would be implemented as planned on May 1, 1997; however, a restructuring of the park airspace and air routes would not be implemented until January 1998. (See May 12, 1997.)
Thursday, February 27, 1997:Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense announced an agreement to provide a second frequency for its global positioning system (GPS), and guarantee uninterrupted availability of the L2 frequency for civil users in the interim. The development of a second frequency was consistent with a recommendation by the Gore Commission. (See March 29, 1996; March 30, 1998.)
Friday, February 28, 1997:President Clinton signed legislation reinstating certain aviation taxes from March 6 through September 30. Included were the 10 percent airline ticket tax, 6.25 percent domestic air freight tax, an international departure tax of $6 per ticket, and excise charges on non-commercial aviation fuel. The law also gave the Treasury Department authority to transfer aviation tax revenue to the Aviation Trust Fund.
Friday, February 28, 1997:FAA released an independent 90-day assessment, as mandated by the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-264), to assess the scope of its financial needs through 2002. The assessment, performed by the Coopers & Lybrand consulting firm, concluded that the FAA had no system to account for its costs, and that FAA managers generally could not manage money properly. This assessment was similar to other studies that concluded that FAA needed to institute a fundamental change in the way it made decisions, and that those who funded the agency, as well as those who used its services, had to afford it greater flexibility in how it did business. In response, FAA stated that the report showed the need for reform to bridge the gap, over the next six years, between its projected responsibilities and its anticipated resources. (See September 30, 1996.)
Wednesday, March 5, 1997:Department of Transportation Secretary Slater announced that U.S. airlines had recorded a third straight year of strong growth. The announcement followed release of a FAA annual commercial aviation forecast.
Thursday, March 13, 1997:FAA announced that it had installed two new systems, the telecommunications processor and the interim situation display, at the New York and Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC). These installations would benefit flights over the Pacific and Caribbean.
Friday, March 14, 1997:FAA formally accepted, ahead of schedule, the Display System Replacement (DSR) system. (See April 27, 1995; January 20, 1999.)
Friday, March 14, 1997:FAA published two proposed airworthiness directives requiring retrofit of Boeing 737 rudder components. (See January 15, 1997; January 13, 1999.)
Wednesday, March 19, 1997:FAA published a rulemaking proposal to update and clarify regulations regarding the licensing of commercial space launches. (See November 15, 1995; May 22, 1997.)
Thursday, March 20, 1997:FAA published an interim final rule establishing fees, effective May 19, 1997, for providing air traffic and related services to aircraft that overfly the United States but do not land or takeoff from U.S. territory. (See May 19, 1997.)
Friday, March 21, 1997:FAA announced that, with 33 of 39 commuter air carriers now in compliance, the aviation industry had successfully implemented the commuter rule. Adopted by the government in December 1995, this rule required airlines operating aircraft with 10 to 30 seats to meet the same, or equivalent, safety standards as the major airlines. (See December 14, 1995.)
Thursday, March 27, 1997:Although a section of a wing flap fell off of Delta Boeing 767 near Dallas, the plane landed with no passenger or crew injuries. April 2, FAA ordered inspections of flaps for all 767s with at least 25,000 hours or 10,000 flights.
Thursday, March 27, 1997:FAA initiated phase 1 of Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) procedures in the North Atlantic. Reducing separation from 2,000 to 1,000 had huge implications for capacity and fuel efficiency in oceanic operations. This was the first reduction of separation over the Atlantic in 40 years. (See April 9, 1997.)
Tuesday, April 1, 1997:A groundbreaking ceremony for the world’s first full-scale airport pavement test facility took place at the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center. FAA and Boeing partnered to create the facility. (See May 20, 1996; April 12, 1999.)
Thursday, April 3, 1997:Unofficial reports began circulating that the Clinton Administration would nominate Acting Highway Administrator Jane Garvey for the post of FAA Administrator and George Donohue, currently FAA associate administrator for research and acquisitions, as her deputy. (See June 11, 1997.)
Saturday, April 5, 1997:The new Washington National air traffic control tower began operating. Rising 201 feet, the state-of-the-art facility was 114 feet taller than the tower that had been in use since the airport’s opening in 1941. Department of Transportation Secretary Slater dedicated the new tower on May 12, 1997.
Monday, April 7, 1997:In response to North Korea’s opening of its airspace to routine international flights, the U.S. government lifted its prohibition on paying overflight fees to North Korea. April 24 the FAA cited such factors as North Korea’s military rules of engagement as justification, however, for publishing a special federal aviation regulation (SFAR) prohibiting certain U.S. flights in the area.
Wednesday, April 9, 1997:FAA established requirements, effective this date, affecting the operations of U.S.-registered aircraft in designated Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) airspace. This designation referred to airspace between flight level (FL) 290 and FL 410 – in which a minimum of 1,000 feet separation, rather than the 2,000 foot minimum separation generally required above FL 290, was to be maintained between aircraft. These regulations required operators and their aircraft to be properly qualified and equipped – as well as to obtain approvals certifying these conditions – to conduct flight operations while separated by 1,000 feet. RVSM was to be applied only in designated areas, and the first such area was to include certain flight levels in the North Atlantic minimum navigation performance specifications airspace. (See March 27, 1997; February 24, 2000.)
Tuesday, April 15, 1997:The tail of a German-made BK-117 helicopter reportedly broke off in flight, causing the aircraft to crash into New York’s East river, killing one occupant and injuring two. April 25, FAA issued an airworthiness directive requiring operators of certain models of helicopters manufactured by Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH to inspect the tail booms for cracks before the craft would be permitted to fly. April 26, FAA grounded all 132 of the BK-117s in the United States pending checks for cracks in certain key components.
Tuesday, April 22, 1997:FAA published a proposal to accept applications, beginning December 1, for participation in an airport privatization pilot program established by the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-264).
Wednesday, April 23, 1997:FAA issued an airworthiness directive requiring visual inspections to detect stress and replace any faulty ball bearings in GE90 engines on five Boeing 777s. The directive followed ball bearing failures on two British 777s.
Thursday, April 24, 1997:FAA unveiled its inflight aircraft icing plan, based on recommendations from international experts. The plan was the final phase of a three-phase program that FAA had announced in 1994. (See October 31, 1994.)
Monday, April 28, 1997:FAA selected Hughes Information Technology Systems, a unit of Hughes Aircraft Company, as its integration-services contractor to support the National Airspace System Infrastructure Management System (NIMS) program. The contract was estimated to be worth $100 million over seven years. (See June 15, 1998.)
Friday, May 2, 1997:FAA announced the $12.2 million purchase of additional trace detection security equipment for use at the nation’s busiest airports. (See February 12, 1997; September 25, 1998.)
Sunday, May 4, 1997:FBI Director Louis Freeh announced that the evidence in the TWA Flight 800 crash pointed to mechanical failure and emphasized the need to bring the investigation to a close. (See January 7, 1997; December 8, 1997.)
Tuesday, May 6, 1997:Airlines began a two-week test of matching bags with passengers at selected airports nationwide. (See February 6, 1997; February 12, 1997; May 17, 1997.)
Monday, May 12, 1997:FAA announced its selection of the FAA/NASA Joint University Program for Air Transportation to receive the first Excellence in Aviation Research award.
Monday, May 12, 1997:FAA proposed an airworthiness directive requiring ice detector systems on Embraer 120 aircraft. (See January 9, 1997.)
Monday, May 12, 1997:FAA proposed converting two flight-free zones over the Grand Canyon into new flight corridors. The agency stated that one of these was to be an “incentive corridor” for quieter aircraft, and the other was intended to address Native American concerns by preventing overflights of their cultural properties and sacred sites. (See February 21, 1997; May 19, 1997.)
Wednesday, May 14, 1997:FAA awarded a contract worth up to $250 million for computer support services to the Department of Agriculture’s National Information Technology Center. The center would establish the Integrated Computing Environment – Mainframe and Networking (ICE-MAN) system, a follow-on to the computer resource nucleus contract. May 20, due to questions raised by industry about this controversial government-to-government award, the FAA associate administrator for research and acquisitions suspended work on the ICE-MAN contract. FAA’s ICE-MAN acquisition team and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials reviewed the original contract, and determined that the program met OMB’s A-76 guidelines. June 10, FAA lifted the suspension on the contract and formally announced resumption on June 20, 1997. Agriculture delayed resumption of work until the deadline for appeals had passed.
Wednesday, May 14, 1997:FAA issued an airworthiness directive requiring operators to check an engine fire switch override button on Boeing 777s .
Wednesday, May 14, 1997:The Air Transport Association stated that its members would begin installing fire suppression systems in cargo holds of passenger planes. The first of these might be installed in the last quarter of 1997, and the program would take five years to complete its work. FAA reportedly proposed to require the action within three years. (See November 14, 1996; June 10, 1997.)
Saturday, May 17, 1997:As part of the aircraft hardening program, FAA and British aviation authorities set off four simultaneous explosions in the cargo hold of an old Boeing 747 at Leicester, England. (See May 6, 1997; May 4, 1998.)
Monday, May 19, 1997:Under an interim final rule, FAA began collecting fees for overflight services, as scheduled – having, on the previous Friday, turned down requests from the International Air Transportation Association and the Air Transportation Association of Canada for a 90 day delay. A U.S. Court of Appeals decision in January 1998 determined that FAA’s calculation of fees was inconsistent with the statute and prohibited the collection of the fees. (See March 20, 1997; June 5, 2000.)
Monday, May 19, 1997:Department of Transportation and Interior Department established a National Park Overflights Working Group to develop a plan to ensure preservation of natural quiet in the parks. The group would exist for 100 days after the date of its initial meeting, scheduled for May 20-21, 1997. Its membership included representatives of the aviation industry, parks, and conservation groups. (See May 12, 1997.)
Wednesday, May 21, 1997:To allow commercial airlines to benefit from technological improvements, FAA published a rule permitting commercial aircraft to activate their autopilot at less than 500 feet above ground level during takeoff and climb. Such actions, however, would have to be authorized by the FAA Administrator and would have to be performed as required in the performing carrier’s operating specifications.
Thursday, May 22, 1997:FAA issued its second privately-operated spaceport license to Spaceport Florida for the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (See March 19, 1997; December 19, 1997.)
Wednesday, May 28, 1997:The National Civil Aviation Review Commission, lead by Norman Mineta, held the first of two public hearings regarding the financing of certain FAA services. Seventeen organizations testified. September 25, the commission made its “Preliminary Finance Report” available to the public. October 28, a second, and final, public hearing was held. December 11, Mineta issued the commission’s final report, “Avoiding Aviation Gridlock and Reducing the Accident Rate: A Consensus for Change,” which noted that airline passengers were doomed to massive airport congestion and more dangerous skies unless FAA received a radical overhaul. The 21-member panel called on lawmakers and the White House to improve FAA management and finances. It urged a partial privatization of the agency and steps to shield aviation regulation from partisan budget battles. The proposed reforms would let the FAA beef up funding for the air traffic control system and airports to accommodate a rise in air traffic. (See September 30, 1996.)
Wednesday, May 28, 1997:FAA sent a letter to Raytheon indicating its concern about delays in the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) project. FAA proposed to elevate STARS software development to high risk status because of delays in meeting project milestones. (See September 16, 1996; September 11, 1997.)
Friday, May 30, 1997:FAA grounded the MD-900 Explorer helicopter until further notice following the discovery of a broken adjustable collective drive link during a McDonnell-Douglas post-flight inspection on May 8.
Friday, May 30, 1997:FAA selected the firm of Booz-Allen & Hamilton to perform a congressionally-mandated review of the agency’s new acquisition system .
Tuesday, June 10, 1997:FAA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would require the installation of fire detection and suppression systems in the sealed cargo holds of all commercial aircraft. The airline industry would have three years from the time the rule became final to meet the new standards. According to the agency, the new rule would affect approximately 3,000 passenger aircraft and another 300 cargo planes. Most long-range passenger aircraft, such as the new Boeing 777 jetliners, already met the new standard. (See May 14, 1997; February 12, 1998.)
Wednesday, June 11, 1997:President Clinton announced his intention to nominate Jane Garvey as FAA Administrator and George Donohue as her deputy. (See April 3, 1997; July 31, 1997; February 9, 1998.)
Tuesday, July 1, 1997:The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), reporting on a commuter plane collision in which most passengers survived the impact but died in a subsequent fire, recommended that FAA find ways to fund fire and rescue protection at small airports served by small planes. NTSB said the collision of a United Express Beechcraft 1900 with a private twin-engine Beechcraft King Air at Quincy, Illinois, on November 19 took place because the pilots of the King Air failed to monitor properly a common radio frequency on which the United Express pilot repeatedly reported her position and intention to land. Although finding the King Air crew primarily responsible, NTSB presented a list of other safety issues, including a radio transmission by a novice pilot that probably confused the United Express crew, the inability of surviving passengers to open jammed emergency exits, and a lack of fire and rescue capability at Quincy.
Thursday, July 3, 1997:The Federal Trade Commission decided not to block the merger between the Boeing Company and McDonnell Douglas Corporation. The newly strengthened Boeing would control two-thirds of the world’s airplane market. August 1, the two companies formally merged. (See December 15, 1996.)
Saturday, July 19, 1997:A Cessna 172 and Beech Bonanza mid-air collision near Chicago’s Meigs field killed all seven onboard the two aircraft. The accident resulted in a safety review of FAA’s contract tower program.
Thursday, July 31, 1997:The U.S. Senate confirmed Jane Garvey as FAA Administrator. August 4, Garvey was sworn in as the 14th FAA Administrator, the first to be appointed to a five year term. (See June 11, 1997.)
Wednesday, August 6, 1997:A South Korean Boeing 747 jetliner crashed in rugged jungle terrain while attempting to make an early-morning landing on the South Pacific island of Guam, killing more than 200 people. At least 35 of those aboard survived the fiery crash. The crash ocurred as Korean Air Flight 801 approached Won Pat International Airport in darkness and heavy rain with 254 passengers and crew aboard. …fails to elaborate on extensive FAA failures…
Thursday, August 7, 1997:FineAir Flight 101, a DC-8, crashed on takeoff from Miami after improperly secured cargo slid. The excess weight in the rear portion of the aircraft caused a severe aft center of gravity condition, rendering the crew unable to lower the aircraft’s nose. The airplane stalled, crashed into a field, and slid across busy 72nd Avenue into a strip-mall parking lot.
Thursday, August 14, 1997:The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis dismissed a standing protest by Wilcox Electric against FAA for having awarded the then-$500 million Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) contract to Hughes. FAA had terminated the Wilcox contract on April 26, 1996, claiming Wilcox, the original prime contractor, had failed to live up to provisions of the contract. FAA subsequently awarded Hughes Aircraft a sole-source award for WAAS development. (See March 29, 1996; September 23, 1997.)
Monday, August 18, 1997:A final rule requiring that digital flight data recorders (black box) collect more information went into effect. The number of specific areas of flight information, called data parameters, increased to 88 for newly manufactured aircraft and increased from 11 to 17 or 18 for older aircraft. (See July 16, 1996; May 3, 1999.)
Tuesday, August 19, 1997:The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled that all parties, including FAA, executive boardrooms, and the “shop room floor,” shared some culpability for the crash of ValuJet Flight 592. The aircraft probably would not have crashed into the Florida Everglades on May 11, 1996, if FAA had followed a decade-old recommendation to require fire detection and suppression systems in aircraft cargo holds. NTSB also listed as “probable causes” the failure of the maintenance contractor SabreTech to properly “prepare, package, identify and track” hazardous oxygen generators that were improperly placed in the cargo hold, and ValuJet’s failure to oversee SabreTech. In addition, NTSB said FAA’s failure to adequately monitor ValuJet’s maintenance program and its maintenance contractors, the failure to respond adequately to prior oxygen generator fires, and the airline’s failure to train its employees about handling hazardous material also contributed to the causes of the tragedy. (See May 11, 1996.)
Monday, August 25, 1997:FAA awarded Harris Corporation a contract to replace the current system by which flight service stations provide crucial information such as emergency assistance and weather briefings to pilots. Under the Operational and Supportability Implementation System (OASIS) program contract – valued at more than $110 million, including options – Harris would provide flight planning and weather information to general aviation pilots nationwide. FAA planned to modernize up to 61 flight service stations over the next ten years. (See July 1, 2002.)
Thursday, September 11, 1997:Representative Connie Morella, chair of the House Science Subcommittee on Technology, met with the administrator to discuss installing the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) in the Washington National terminal radar control (TRACON) facility. FAA committed to making a decision in four to six weeks on whether it would be possible to deploy an interim solution at a selected few major terminal facilities, like National, that would provide STARS hardware operating in tandem with existing software. This would provide controllers an improved operational capability, including color displays, until the STARS software was ready to meet mission requirements. The schedule called for STARS to be ready for initial operation at National in September 2000. (See May 28, 1997; October 30, 1997.)
Monday, September 22, 1997:Bombardier Aerospace announced that FAA had granted final certification of Learjet’s pioneering Model 45, the world’s first business jet designed and manufactured entirely by computer. The aircraft was Learjet’s first all-new jet in 30 years and its third aircraft to be certified since the company was acquired by Bombardier Inc., in 1990.
Tuesday, September 23, 1997:FAA sponsored a demonstration flight into Tijuana International Airport showing the benefits of the Wide Area Augmentation System. The agency called this the first big step toward establishing a seamless air navigation system across North America. (See August 14, 1997; October 1, 1997.)
Tuesday, September 23, 1997:FAA announced the selection of a team of universities to serve as the FAA Center of Excellence for Airworthiness Assurance. (See October 1992; January 28, 2004.)
Wednesday, October 1, 1997:Testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Aviation, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Department of Transportation Inspector General Kenneth Mead criticized FAA management of the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) program. He stated, “We found that FAA did not use a consistent method for cost estimating. An April 1994 cost benefit analysis for WAAS reflected an estimated total life-cycle cost through the year 2014 at $1.4 billion. Program documentation in July 1997, reflects an estimate of total life-cycle costs for WAAS, through the year 2016, at over $2.4 billion. Our analysis of this showed that FAA has been slow to fully recognize all life-cycle costs of systems. .. In our opinion, FAA’s efforts to include life-cycle cost estimates for all satellite related systems and supporting activities will establish an understanding of the financial requirements and greatly facilitate decision making. Once established, these projected life-cycle costs should be integrated into FAA’s plan to ensure effective transition to the new technologies.” (See September 23, 1997; October 20-22, 1997.)
Wednesday, October 1, 1997:FAA implemented a new cost accounting system, with research and acquisitions personnel at Washington, DC, headquarters serving as a pilot for the system. The labor distribution module of the system was a key component of the effort.
Monday, October 6, 1997:The FAA commissioned the first precision runway monitor at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. The system permits simultaneous independent instrument landing system (ILS) approaches to parallel runways spaced less than 4,300 feet apart.
Tuesday, October 14, 1997:John Denver, a licensed pilot who had a home near Monterey, California, was killed when his fiberglass plane crashed about 100 yards offshore shortly after having taken off at Monterey Airport .
October 20-22, 1997:FAA and Italy’s Ente Nationale Di Assistenza Al Volo conducted flights at Ciampino Airport near Rome to test the capabilities of the Wide Area Augmentation System to function in European airspace. A FAA Boeing 727 used signals from both the U.S. national Satellite Test Bed and Italy’s Mediterranean Test Bed to complete the test flights. (See October 1, 1997; October 15, 1998.)
Wednesday, October 22, 1997:FAA began collecting fees, effective this date, for the production of certification-related services pertaining to aeronautical products manufactured or assembled outside the United States.
Wednesday, October 29, 1997:The Task Force on Assistance to Families of Aviation Disasters, co chaired by Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater and NTSB Chairman James Hall, issued 61 recommendations to ensure that the families of the victims of aviation disasters receive prompt and compassionate assistance.
Thursday, October 30, 1997:National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Michael McNally told the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Aviation, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure that “NATCA has made it very clear to FAA that there are problems with the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) that must be rectified before it can be a workable product within the terminal environment.” At the urging of Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), the FAA agreed to bring in MITRE and work with the Department of Transportation Inspector General in an attempt to resolve the dispute with NATCA over STARS. Wolf asked the FAA to report by December 15 on progress in resolving cost, delay, and human factors issues. (See September 11, 1997; April 26, 1999.)
Thursday, November 20, 1997:FAA awarded a four-year contract to Lockheed Martin with a potential value of up to $1 billion, to modernize the air traffic control system. The initial four-year National Airspace System Implementation Support contract (NISC II) contract was worth approximately $350 million with as many as three two-year extension options. Under the terms of the NISC II contract, Lockheed Martin would supply engineering, planning, automation, environmental analysis, and other services to the FAA.
Wednesday, November 26, 1997:FAA proposed two airworthiness directives asking airlines to find and fix potential ignition sources in or near the central fuel tanks of Boeing 747 aircraft. (See January 21, 1997; December 12, 1997.)
Thursday, November 27, 1997:Department of Transportation Inspector General Kenneth Mead issued a report in which he stated that some FAA inspectors assigned to check airplane maintenance and electrical systems have not been trained. Mead found some employees took no training courses before they joined the agency or after they were hired. And workers who had been trained may not have taken additional courses to learn about changes in the systems they were inspecting.
Monday, December 8, 1997:The National Transportation Safety Board began hearings on TWA Flight 800 in Baltimore, Maryland. (See May 4, 1997.)
Friday, December 12, 1997:FAA issued an airworthiness directive expanding the inspection and replacement of the Teflon wire coating used in the stainless steel wire conduits on Boeing 747 fuel boost pumps and the pumps used in jettisoning fuel. The AD immediately superseded the December 23, 1996, AD requiring inspections and replacements for Boeing 747 airplanes that used aluminum conduits. (See November 26, 1997; December 19, 1997.)
Monday, December 15, 1997:FAA and the Air Transport Association announced a new partnership to eliminate controlled flight into terrain (CFIT). Air Transportation Association member airlines would voluntarily equip 4,300 of their aircraft with advanced terrain awareness warning systems, such as the enhanced ground proximity warning system. Installation of the system was expected to be substantially complete during 2003. (See February 12, 1997; March 29, 2000.)
Tuesday, December 16, 1997:President Clinton signed into law the Foreign Air Carrier Family Support Act requiring foreign carriers to file a plan by June 15, 1998, addressing the needs of families of victims of an aviation disaster in the United States.
Friday, December 19, 1997:Top FAA and National Transportation Safety Board officials, often at odds over aviation safety issues, agreed to move forward aggressively with plans to make Boeing 747 fuel tanks safer. The agreement between FAA Administrator Jane Garvey and NTSB Chairman Jim Hall followed board hearings on the crash of Trans World Airlines Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island on July 17, 1996, which killed 230 people. Investigators determined that the plane’s center fuel tank exploded and split the plane apart, but did not yet know what sparked the explosion. (See December 12, 1997; April 7, 1998.)
Friday, December 19, 1997:Barry Valentine stepped down as FAA deputy administrator (acting) and retired from the agency. (See February 1, 1997.)
Friday, December 19, 1997:FAA issued a launch site operators license to Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority to operate a space launch facility at Wallops Island, Virginia. (See May 22, 1997; February 10-11, 1998.)
Sunday, December 28, 1997:A powerful blast of air turbulence sent a United Airlines jumbo jet with 393 people aboard into a sudden 1,000-foot drop over the Pacific Ocean, killing one passenger and injuring 110 others. The Boeing 747 (United Flight 826) was about 1,100 miles east of Japan after leaving Tokyo for Honolulu when it encountered the turbulence.
Wednesday, December 31, 1997:During Calendar Year 1997 public agencies collected $1.2 billion in Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) revenue .
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.