Thursday, January 8, 1998:FAA ordered immediate visual inspection of the tail sections of 211 late-model Boeing 737s after investigators determined that a crash in Indonesia might have been the result of missing fasteners in the tail. Within the 24 hours prior to issuing this order, the agency had checked horizontal stabilizers on aircraft being built or prepared for delivery at Boeing’s Renton, Washington, factory. No major problems were noted, but the inspectors found a loose fastener on one in-service aircraft. All U.S. carriers with 737s manufactured after September 20, 1995, in their fleets were therefore required to inspect the horizontal stabilizer portion of the tail section within 24 hours, or five flight segments, for missing fasteners.
Friday, February 6, 1998:President Clinton signed legislation into law renaming Washington National Airport the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Monday, February 9, 1998:George Donohue, FAA associate administrator for research and acquisitions withdrew his nomination to be the FAA deputy administrator and informed Department of Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater that he planned to leave the agency. (See June 11, 1997.)
February 10-11, 1998:FAA held its first Commercial Space Transportation Forecast Conference. (See December 19, 1997; April 21, 1998.)
Wednesday, February 11, 1998:President Clinton signed into law the FAA Research, Engineering, and Development Authorization Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-155). The bill mandated FAA establish a program to fund undergraduate and technical colleges, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions, to perform research on subjects of relevance to FAA. The legislation also required the agency to assess immediately the extent of the risk to its operations that could be identified up until the year 2000 and to develop contingency plans to reduce or avoid the risk introduced by faulty systems that could not be fully corrected before the target year.
Thursday, February 12, 1998:Department of Transportation issued a rule mandating that, beginning the upcoming fall, airlines must collect the full names of all passengers traveling on international flights and be prepared to make a passenger manifest available within three hours of a crash. The rule was one of several Department of Transportation actions issued on the first anniversary of the publication of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security report.
Thursday, February 12, 1998:FAA issued a final rule requiring fire detection and suppression systems in aircraft cargo compartments. (See June 10, 1997; March 19, 2001.)
Monday, March 30, 1998:Vice President Al Gore announced that two new civilian global positioning system (GPS) signals would be provided by the U.S. free of charge. The announcement fulfilled a pledge made by the Department of Defense and Department of Transportation in March 1997 to reach a decision on a second civil frequency within a year. (See February 27, 1997; June 3, 1998.)
Tuesday, April 7, 1998:Federal aviation investigators probing the explosion of TWA Flight 800 urged inspections of the wiring in fuel monitoring systems of hundreds of Boeing 747s and possibly other Boeing jets. In a letter to FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall noted that his organization had found damaged wiring on the “fuel quantity indication systems” of the crashed aircraft and three other 747s. While not directly linking them with the explosion of Flight 800’s fuel tank, the letter described the conditions as “potentially hazardous.” Also, sources close to the investigation said the letter was not intended to indicate that the board was any closer to determining the cause of the fuel tank’s violent explosion. The problems with the 747 fuel systems had been revealed earlier, and had been discussed at hearings on the crash held the previous year in Baltimore. (See December 19, 1997; May 10, 1998.)
Tuesday, April 14, 1998:The Clinton Administration unveiled its Safer Skies initiative, an aviation safety agenda consistent with one announced earlier by the aviation industry. Designed to reduce the commercial aviation accident rate by 80 percent over the next decade, the initiative included mandatory equipment and training to prevent pilots from flying mechanically fit aircraft into the ground or water. It also contained programs to encourage cabin safety. Safer Skies concentrated FAA resources on the most prevalent causes of aircraft accidents and used special teams of technical experts to identify the leading causes of aviation disasters and recommend safety advances.
Wednesday, April 15, 1998:FAA leased the Atlantic City International Airport to the South Jersey Transportation Authority. FAA and the authority signed a 50-year lease and cooperative agreement transferring 2,000 acres of land, including airport runway and taxiway systems.
Thursday, April 16, 1998:RTCA’s Free Flight Steering Committee recommended that, through a core capability limited deployment process to be undertaken through 2002, FAA should adopt its proposed free flight program to implement six technologies at selected air route air traffic control centers. The technologies included: Traffic Management Advisory (TMA), Passive Final Approach Space Tool (pFAST), User Request Evaluation Tool (URET), Collaborative Decision Making (CDM), Controller-Pilot Datalink Communications (CPDLC), and Surface Movement Advisor (SMA). (See January 15, 1997; September 30, 1999; February 4, 2000; March 30, 2000.)
Tuesday, April 21, 1998:FAA published a final rule on licensing requirements for the launch of expendable vehicles from federal sites. (See February 10-11, 1998; August 26, 1998.)
Monday, May 4, 1998:FAA announced plans to introduce computer-based training for security screening personnel at the nation’s busiest airports. The training was a module in the Screener Proficiency Evaluation and Reporting System (SPEARS) being developed by the agency to select, train, evaluate, and monitor the performance of employees who operated the X-ray screening checkpoints. FAA awarded Safe Passage International an $11 million contract on this date to install the SPEARS computer-based training workstations and train instructors to use it at up to 60 airports. (See May 17, 1997; August 21, 1998.)
Sunday, May 10, 1998:FAA ordered all older Boeing 737s temporarily grounded until mechanics inspected high-voltage fuel tank wiring for problems that could cause a fire or explosion. FAA gave airlines seven days to complete the inspections. The action came after United Airlines mechanics found evidence of electrical arcing on wiring removed from another 737. Thomas McSweeny, FAA director of aircraft certification, stated that nearly every one of the first 13 aircraft inspected prior to the order exhibited some level of chafing on the insulation that separated the wiring from the metal conduits carrying the wiring through the fuel tank to fuel pumps. May 14, FAA expanded the order to include somewhat newer 737 planes and added a set of wires exempted from the original inspection. In some cases, when mechanics performed inspections of newer planes already in the shop for major repairs, they found chafed high-voltage wires. (See April 7, 1998; July 23, 1998.)
Wednesday, May 13, 1998:FAA unveiled a new, data-driven air carrier inspection program called the Air Transport Oversight System (ATOS) to enable FAA inspectors to spot safety trends and catch problems before they could lead to an incident or accident. (See October 1, 1998.)
Friday, May 15, 1998:FAA commissioned the country’s 34th Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR) at Newark International Airport. It also commissioned an airport surveillance radar (ASR-9) there. The ASR-9 replaced the ASR-7 at Newark, providing a clearer picture of weather and aircraft than the older system.
Tuesday, June 2, 1998:The Department of Transportation Inspector General issued a report saying that, despite the fact that adverse weather conditions had caused or contributed to nearly 25 percent of aviation accidents in the last decade, FAA still had failed to provide leadership in aviation weather programs.
Wednesday, June 3, 1998:Department of Transportation Secretary Slater announced the award of a contract to Advanced Management Technologies, Inc., to provide expertise in the adaptation of the global positioning system (GPS) to civil aviation needs. The contract was worth $27 million over three years, with four one-year options that could bring the full potential contract value up to $62 million. Under the contract, the company would provide technical engineering and program management support for current and future satellite and satellite augmentation systems for FAA. (See March 30, 1998; January 29, 1999.)
Friday, June 5, 1998:FAA ordered the retraining of 10,000 air traffic controllers nationwide. Two specific incidents and a general increase in controller errors nationwide prompted this action. An April 3 incident had not been revealed to the public, but shortly before the order was released, an Air Canada Airbus A320 jet, taking off from LaGuardia, flew directly over a US Airways DC-9 jet as it broke off a landing. The two passenger jets came as close as 20 feet from colliding and the incident was widely reported. The agency ordered mandatory proficiency training for controllers working in airport towers handling takeoffs and landings.
Friday, June 5, 1998:Effective on this day, a FAA reorganization took place that:
- Abolished two offices:
- The Office of the Associate Administrator for Administration
- The Office of Business Information and Consultation
- Established four offices:
- Assistant Administrator for Financial Services/CFO
- Assistant Administrator for Financial Services/Director of Budget
- Assistant Administrator for Human Resource Management
- Assistant Administrator for Region/Center Operations
- Moved two offices:
- Office of Flight Oversight became Flight Standards Service under the Office of the Administrator for Regulation and Certification
- Moved the Washington Flight Program Office (Hangar Six) became the Aviation Systems Standards Office within the Airway Facilities organization
- Transferred the duties of two offices:
- The duties of the Freedom of Information Act Office were assumed within the Office of the Assistant Administrator for Region/Center Operations
- The duties of the Headquarters Facilities Management Office were assumed within the Office of Acquisitions under the Associate Administrator for Research and Acquisitions
Monday, June 15, 1998:Department of Transportation Secretary Slater and National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Michael McNally announced a new labor agreement between FAA and NATCA. September 9, NATCA members voted to approve the new contract. August 28, FAA and NATCA formally signed the new five-year pact in which a federal labor union negotiated wages, for the first time, with a government agency. (See January 7, 2003.)
Monday, June 15, 1998:FAA completed construction of NAS infrastructure management System (NIMS) facility located in Reston, Virginia. The facility was used to evaluate human factors, validate various commercial-off-the-shelf products and interfaces that comprise NIMS, and to develop, verify, and refine initial operational procedures. (See April 28, 1997.)
Tuesday, June 16, 1998:The National Transportation Safety Board reported that the probable cause of the crash of Fine Air Flight 101 onto a Miami street the previous summer was a combination of the actions of an inexperienced crew and the effects of an improperly loaded cargo. Federal investigators said that both the airline and FAA shared responsibility for failing to correct numerous safety problems. NTSB further chose this crash to address broader problems in FAA oversight of all airlines, drawing parallels to the 1996 fatal crash, also attributed to hazardous cargo, of a ValuJet DC-9. Several NTSB members suggested FAA should clean house at its flight standards office in Miami, the headquarters for five major all-cargo companies. NTSB’s official report on the cargo crash said the Miami office knew of deficiencies in Fine Air’s operations, but did not correct them.
Wednesday, June 17, 1998:FAA unveiled a step in its congressionally authorized personnel reform efforts – a test of a new compensation plan for about 1,200 agency employees. The new plan replaced the traditional grade and step base pay method with a structure of pay bands whose value was determined by comparison with similar jobs in government and private industry. The program linked compensation with performance. (See April 1, 1996.)
June 1998:FAA established a formal safety risk management policy through Order 8040.4. The new policy provided for a formal, but flexible, approach for managing safety risks associated with high consequence decisions.
Thursday, July 23, 1998:FAA proposed new measures to reduce potential ignition sources in Boeing 747 center wing tanks. The proposed airworthiness would require operators of Boeing 747 aircraft registered in the U.S. to take the following actions:
- Inspect the center fuel tank to detect damage, disbonding or incorrect installation of wiring and components.
- Test to ensure the electrical bonding of center fuel tank components to the aircraft’s structure is within limits, reworking it if necessary.
- On certain 747s, measure the insulation resistance of the fuel quantity indication system (FQIS) to ensure that it is within limits. Also on certain aircraft, operators would have to replace FQIS components with new hardware, and replace silverplated FQIS wires with new nickel-plated wiring.
- In certain airplanes, install a flame arrestor into the inlet line of the scavenge pumps of the center fuel tank.
- Under the proposed rule, replacement of the FQIS components and wiring would have to be done within 24 months, or 20 years from the date the plane was built, which ever would be later. All other actions would have to be accomplished within 24 months. The rule would require operators to report inspection results to Boeing within ten days. (See May 10, 1998; August 11, 1998.)